Biting back at Malaria...
October 18, 2011 12:24 PM   Subscribe

A new malaria vaccine has been shown effective in large-scale field trials. After decades of disappointment, researchers think they're finally on track to unleash the first practical vaccine against malaria, one of mankind's ancient scourges. In the world's first large field trial of an experimental malaria vaccine, several thousand young children who got three doses had about 55 percent less risk of getting the disease over a year than those who got a control vaccine against rabies or meningitis.

The vaccine was developed by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), a non-profit.
posted by BobbyVan (21 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here's the citation for those with access.
posted by juliapangolin at 12:33 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I did a post last year on using mosquitoes as a way of distributing a vaccine, I found some numbers that really helped put the significance of the problem in perspective;

Two hundred and fifty million people are infected with malaria annually, and it kills somewhere between one and three million people each year (many of which are children in sub Sahara Africa). Solving it would improve the lives of billions of people living in temperate climates.

This is one of those things that you don't appreciate the scope until you realize that malaria is one of the top killers of humans of all time. In the last hundred years alone, It's killed more soldiers than bullets.

Beating it would be a Big Deal, and I'd love to see the end of it in my lifetime.
posted by quin at 12:45 PM on October 18, 2011 [17 favorites]


This is great news. And it's part of the reason why Bill Gates is a great man. When he figured out that fighting disease was ultimately more important than putting computers in every village in Africa, and changed the focus of his Foundation as a result, it was a great day.
posted by OmieWise at 12:56 PM on October 18, 2011 [17 favorites]


If this works out, dang. A genuinely effective tool for fighting malaria? That's huge.

Its beginning to look like we'll make some big strides forward in the next decade. The Spanish work on an HIV vaccine is looking promising, there's a possible anti-viral in animal testing at MIT, and now this.

Science!
posted by sotonohito at 1:19 PM on October 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


there's a possible anti-viral in animal testing at MIT

Whoa, yes, there is. Wow.

I hadn't heard about that. Thanks!
posted by davidjmcgee at 1:24 PM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Amazing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:35 PM on October 18, 2011


I'm sorry that I'm too busy to really properly participate in the thread, but if anyone wants the paper itself just memail me with an email address and I'll be happy to send it to you. For the purposes of this academic discussion which we are currently having of course)
posted by Blasdelb at 1:45 PM on October 18, 2011


Wonderful news. This will change the face of Africa within a generation. Looks like it is a recombinant protein expressed in yeast, so hopefully pricing and temperature sensitivity are not prohibitive.
posted by benzenedream at 1:45 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is one of those things that you don't appreciate the scope until you realize that malaria is one of the top killers of humans of all time.

There's a widely quoted statistic that half the people who have ever lived have been killed by malaria. (National Geographic says that "some scientists" believe it -- I can't find any authoritative source except for QI.) Given how horrible most of the available anti-malarials are, even now, a vaccine would be absolutely huge. If this pans out, it is incredible news.
posted by The Bellman at 1:47 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also can't link but there are several substantial PLOS open access articles detailing the makeup and resistance profiling for this vaccine.
posted by benzenedream at 1:47 PM on October 18, 2011


I know that the Gates foundation has been financing work on a malaria vaccine. Was this effort part of it?

A 55% reduction is pretty good, but that would still mean a million deaths per year. This is a very good step, but the journey isn't over.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:56 PM on October 18, 2011


[edited the post per OP's request, carry on]
posted by jessamyn at 1:56 PM on October 18, 2011


I said mentioned this back in the overly-exuberant/pessimistically-Malthusian HIV thread a while back, but it bears repeating: perhaps even more significant than the effect on reducing infant mortality would be the effect an HIV (or malaria, in this case) vaccine would have on increasing productivity of adults. While falciparum malaria can certainly be deadly to anyone without intrinsic defenses, the real effect it has on native of endemic areas is to knock them out of commission for a while.
posted by Panjandrum at 2:01 PM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I sure hope this works, it would be a great thing for humankind.
posted by Mister_A at 2:40 PM on October 18, 2011


Great news for the medical community.
posted by Meatafoecure at 2:40 PM on October 18, 2011


I found a reference elsewhere that said that about $300 million of the $500 million development cost for this came from the Gates foundation. So good for them!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:49 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is great news.

As Panjandrum points out, besides the mortality of malaria for children, there is the incredible loss of productivity in adults. Imagine the potential that is being unleashed as millions of people no longer have to spend a week, or longer, to weak to work. Hopefully this will counteract the tremendous challenges they will be facing from climate change.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 4:34 PM on October 18, 2011


Somewhere Rachel Carson is spinning in her grave.
posted by TSOL at 9:40 PM on October 18, 2011


Could you flesh that comment out for us, TSOL? I'm familiar with purported connections between DDT ban and malarial spraying. A quick trip to Wikipedia indicates that:

Mass outdoor spraying of DDT was abandoned in poor countries subject to malaria, such as Sri Lanka, in the 1970s and 1980s, not because of government prohibitions, but because the DDT had lost its ability to kill the mosquitoes.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:49 PM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hopefully this will counteract the tremendous challenges they will be facing from climate change.

No kidding.
posted by no mind at 10:18 PM on October 18, 2011


Since it may only be 50% effective on humans, could we somehow vaccinate the mosquitos. I can't help but wonder if it would be better for us if there were 50% fewer mosquitos carrying the disease. (probably easier to vaccinate us though).
posted by wobh at 2:27 PM on October 19, 2011


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