Scientists in the UK have developed the world’s most effective malaria vaccine with 77 percent efficacy against the disease.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
According to the World malaria report, released in November 2020, there were 229 million global cases of malaria in 2019 — mostly in Africa — while the estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 409 000 in 2019.
Researchers at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University and their partners, said findings from a phase IIb trial of R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine, demonstrated high-level efficacy of 77 percent.
The researchers noted that they are the first to develop a drug that meets the World Health Organisation (WHO) Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap goal of a vaccine with at least 75 percent efficacy.
According to the researchers, the phase IIb randomised, controlled, double-blind trial was conducted on 450 participants between the age of 5 and 17 months in Burkina Faso.
The participants were split into three groups, with the first two groups receiving the R21/Matrix-M (with either a low dose or high dose of the Matrix-M adjuvant) and the third, a rabies vaccine as the control group.
The doses were administered from early May 2019 to early August 2019, largely before the peak malaria season.
The researchers said result from the trial showed a vaccine efficacy of 77 percent in the higher-dose adjuvant group, and 71 percent in the lower dose adjuvant group.
The vaccine was administered with over 12 months of follow-up and no serious adverse effect related to the vaccine was reported.
Following the results of the phase IIb trial, the vaccination was extended with a booster dose administered before the next malaria season one year later.
The researchers said it has now commenced phase three trial to assess large-scale safety and efficacy in 4,800 children, aged 5-36 months, across four African countries.
Adrian Hill, director of Jenner Institute, said the vaccine marks a significant trajectory in the global fight against malaria.
“These new results support our high expectations for the potential of this vaccine, which we believe is the first to reach the WHO’s goal of a vaccine for malaria with at least 75% efficacy,” he said.
“With the commitment by our commercial partner, the Serum Institute of India, to manufacture at least 200 million doses annually in the coming years, the vaccine has the potential to have major public health impact if licensure is achieved.
Hill added that the institute will apply for emergency approval of the vaccine.
“I’m making the argument as forcefully as I can, that because malaria kills a lot more people than COVID in Africa, you should think about emergency-use authorisation for a malaria vaccine for use in Africa. And that’s never been done before,” he said.