While Africa gets its first vaccine to fight malaria, India is still in the early stages of clinical trials
ON JULY 24 this year, Africa got its first vaccine to fight malaria. The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use approved the commercial use of Mosquirix in the continent,which accounts for 90 per cent of global malaria deaths. While the preventive vaccine is a milestone in Africa’s fight against the killer disease, it hardly paints a hopeful picture for India.Mosquirix is effective against only one species of the malaria pathogen and hence will not be effective in India where malaria is caused by multiple species. India’s vaccine development programmes are only in the early stages of experiment, ranging from basic research aimed at identifying potential targets to conducting Phase I clinical trials. So the country has a long way to go before it can create a successful malaria vaccine.
Mosquirix itself took almost 30 years of research before it could be administered to humans. GlaxoSmithKline (gsk), a British pharmaceutical company,began work on the vaccine in 1987. The subsequent years were devoted to clinical trials,involving more than 16,000 children from Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
During the first 18 months of the trial, three doses of the vaccine were administered to the children.In its report,submitted to the European drug regulator,gsk claims that malaria cases were reduced by almost half in children aged five to 17 months and by 27 per cent in infants aged six to 12 weeks.The vaccine was evaluated in addition to existing malaria control measures, such as insecticidetreated mosquito nets, which were used by approximately 80 per cent of the patients.
Mosquirix is the world’s first licensed vaccine against a parasitic disease of any kind. It has been designed to prevent malaria in children caused by the parasite, Plasmodium falciparum ( P falciparum). While five types