In a promising development, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that it is ready to go ahead with the testing of the first malaria vaccine in real-world settings next year. The organization made the announcement on the eve of World Malaria Day, reports CNN.
The pilot project will test whether the vaccine can work under real-world circumstances. It has to be delivered in four doses and given through an intramuscular injection. In this case, it will be tested in children between the ages of 5 and 17.
The news comes as a welcome one, as over 429,000 people lost their lives to the mosquito-borne illness in 2015, and hundreds of millions get sick with a malaria infection every year, while some never fully recover. However, there has been enormous progress in fighting the disease, as from 2000 to 2015, there was a 62% reduction in malaria deaths, according to the WHO, and a 21% reduction in the number of cases.
But there are gaps in prevention coverage, particularly in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, where about 43% of people at risk for the disease don't have access to mosquito protection like bed nets or bug spray, according to the WHO. Since Africa is the continent that sees the highest number of malaria cases, the new vaccine will be tested in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi starting in 2018, which could make a significant dent.
The vaccine, RTS,S, also known as Mosquirix, was created by scientists at GSK in 1987. It was developed in a public-private partnership with the PATH Malaria Initiative and with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with local health organizations from seven African countries. Among the potential malaria vaccines, it is the furthest along.
The aim of the test is that if the vaccine works, it would become a part of the regular schedule for children in areas with high potential for malaria.