Feature

A new front in the war on malaria

Vaccines offer fresh hope against the killer parasite

Two papers in The New England Journal of Medicine report success in new malaria vaccines, said Ed Silverman in Pharmalot. Given to children in Africa, the vaccines reduced malaria infections by up to 65 percent, compared with a test group. The trials were in Tanzania and Kenya, where “use of bed nets and anti-malarial drugs have dramatically reduced the number of malaria cases” already. Researchers can now move to more malaria-stricken areas.

This news “is good—fantastic, in fact,” said Elizabeth Dickenson in Foreign Policy online. First, we’ve never come up with a vaccine against a human parasite before, and malaria is a “capricious and classically difficult-to-fight parasitic infection.” Also, this is the first malaria vaccine given in conjunction with other vaccines, like polio and MMR, and “there was no interference on either side.”

Still, “no one pretends that even with these results malaria is anywhere near beaten,” said Jeffrey Kluger in Time. Before it can reach the nearly one million people who die of the disease each year, the drug needs two more years of testing and more time in “the bureaucratic labyrinth of the approval process.” Even so, the vaccine does bring us “closer to the moment when today’s plague becomes yesterday’s memory.”

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