In a recent discovery, a malaria vaccine has proven to be 77% effective in early trials, and which could be a major breakthrough in fighting the deadly disease, according to the University of Oxford team behind the study.
Malaria kills more than 400,000 people a year, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa.
But despite many vaccines being trialled over the years, this is the first to meet the required target.
This comes after 450 children were trialed in Burkina Faso, and the vaccine was found to be safe with “high-level efficacy” over 12 months of follow-up.
However, the team will expand its study to about 5,000 children between the ages of five months and three years, which will now be carried out across four African countries to establish the findings.
Malaria is a deadly disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through mosquito bites. Although preventable and curable, the World Health Organization estimates there were 229 million cases worldwide in 2019 and 409,000 deaths.
The illness starts with symptoms such as fever, headaches and cold and, if not properly treated, can mature quickly to severe illness and fatally death.
The most effective malaria vaccine to date had only shown 55% efficacy in trials on African children, but study author Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute and professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said he believed the vaccine was the first to reach the World Health Organization’s goal of at least 75% efficacy.
The trials of this malaria vaccine began in 2019, long before the outbreak of coronavirus, and the Oxford team developed its Covid vaccine (with AstraZeneca) on the strength of its research into malaria, Prof Hill said.
Malaria is one of the leading causes of childhood mortality in Africa and Professor Charlemagne Ouédraogo, minister of health in Burkina Faso, said the new data showed that a new malaria vaccine could be licensed “in the coming years”.
“That would be an extremely important new tool for controlling malaria and saving many lives,” he said.