Bill Gates hails ‘huge milestone’ in fight against malaria

A new malaria vaccine that has been shown to cut the risk of disease in young children by half could prevent millions of deaths a year.

First results from an ongoing large-scale Phase III trial has found that malaria vaccine candidate, RTS,S reduces the risk of malaria by half in African children aged 5 to 17 months.

Bill Gates, whose foundation has contributed 1.75bn dollars to the effort, said it was a “huge milestone” in the fight against the disease.

“This is proof that it is possible to create a vaccine that is effective against malaria,” he said.

He added that it “has the potential to protect millions of children and save thousands of lives.”

The trial, conducted at 11 trial sites in seven countries across sub-Saharan Africa, found that three doses of RTS,S reduced the risk of children experiencing clinical malaria and severe malaria by 56 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

This analysis was performed on data from the first 6,000 children aged 5 to 17 months, over a 12-month period following vaccination.

The widespread coverage of insecticide-treated bed nets in this study indicated that RTS,S can provide protection in addition to that already offered by existing malaria control interventions.

The RTS,S malaria vaccine candidate is still under development. Further information about the longer-term protective effects of the vaccine, 30 months after the third dose, should be available by the end of 2014.

This will provide evidence for national public health and regulatory authorities, as well as international public health organisations, to evaluate the benefits and risks of RTS,S.

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The results were announced at the Malaria Forum hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington and published online in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

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