Researchers have been struggling to produce an efficient malaria vaccine for years without avail. Recently, a team from the UK has developed a new vaccine, Matrix-M, which can be of great importance in controlling this disease.
In a pre-print published in The Lancet, researchers outline a study based in Burkina Faso on 450 children. People in this area are highly prone to seasonal malarial infection. The tropical climate is a good incubator for mosquitoes to breed.
The Clinical Trial
The researchers inoculated the children with an R21 vaccine that carried two different doses of Matrix-M: high and low. A control group received a rabies vaccine instead. They administered the vaccine in three stages, one month between each stage before malaria season began. A fourth dose was administered after one year to evaluate its safety and efficacy.
According to the study, the vaccine did not have serious adverse effects. After 6 months, only 29.5% of the children who received the low dose, and 26% of the children who received the high dose contracted malaria as compared to 71.4% of those who received the rabies vaccine. This proved that the vaccine had 77% efficacy, which remained unchanged after one year.
The researchers have scheduled a follow-up trial in collaboration with the Serum Institute of India and Novavax. It will involve 4800 children to further evaluate the vaccine’s properties.
A revolutionary Malaria Vaccine
Matrix-M was developed by the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute which also developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca Coronavirus Vaccine. The reason it’s such a big deal is that MM is the first malaria vaccine to pass the WHO’s requirement for 75% efficacy.
Professor Adrian Hill, head of the Institute has been working on malaria vaccine development since 1994. This new development therefore, according to him, marks “a great day”.
“We need to build on this, we need to keep all our ducks in a row, we need to avoid any safety signal, but I think the odds are now on our side, we can get this through,” he said, talking to the PA news agency.
“Malaria is one of the leading causes of childhood mortality in Africa,” said Professor Charlemagne Ouedraogo, minister of health in Burkina Faso. “We have been supporting trials of a range of new vaccine candidates in Burkina Faso and these new data show that licensure of a very useful new malaria vaccine could well happen in the coming years. “That would be an extremely important new tool for controlling malaria and saving many lives.”