Early clinical trials of a new malaria vaccine are raising hopes of a major breakthrough against the disease. For the first time, the vaccine trials showed a high efficacy rate above the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) standard.
When trialled in 450 children in Burkina Faso, the Oxford-developed vaccine prevented the disease 77% of the time amongst those receiving it. In a landmark achievement, the result exceeded the WHO’s target efficacy rate of 75%.
The vaccine is now set to undergo further scrutiny in larger and tougher trials.
Developing an effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine may have taken less than a year, but efforts for malaria have been ongoing for the last half century.
This is mainly due to the low investment in developing a vaccine for a disease that mainly affects low and middle-income countries. Furthermore, the malaria parasite is complex and requires a very high immune response to fight it off.
In 2019, the WHO says almost half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria and most deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
Malaria is an ancient disease that has been afflicting humans for thousands of years.
A parasite that spreads through mosquito bites causes the illness, but it can also be transmitted between humans.
Symptoms of malaria can be difficult to recognise as they include fever, chills, and headache.
P. falciparum is one of the five parasite species that cause malaria in humans. It can lead to severe illness, and even death, if not treated within 24 hours.