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2005 James Gathany, Frank Collins This photograph depicts a Anopheles funestus mosquito partaking in a blood meal from its human host. Note the blood passing through the proboscis, which has penetrated the skin, and entered a miniscule cutaneous blood vessel. The Anopheles funestus mosquito, which along with Anopheles gambiae, is one of the two most important malaria vectors in Africa, where more than 80% of the world's malarial disease and deaths occurs. Humans infected with malaria parasites can develop a wide range of symptoms. These vary from asymptomatic infections, i.e., no apparent illness, to the classic symptoms of malaria including fever, chills, sweating, headaches, muscle pains, to severe complications such as cerebral malaria, anemia, and kidney failure, and even death. The severity of the symptoms depends on several factors, including the species of infecting parasite, and the infected humanís acquired immunity and genetic background.

Worlds First Malaria Vaccine Approved

After 30 years of trials, the European Medicines Agency has approved the worlds first ever malaria vaccine, Mosquirix.

This approval means that the vaccine can now be examined by the World Health Organisation, and if approved, Mosquirix could be administered across Africa within the next few years.

Mosquirix was given the go ahead on Friday (July 24) following more than 30 years of trials, which is backed up by 230,000 pages of data. Allan Pamba, the vice president of pharmaceuticals – in East Africa – for GlaxoSmithKline a.k.a GSK (who have spent $356/£230 million finding a vaccine) has described the approval as “massively significant”. GSK plan to invest a further $200 – $250 million until development is completed.

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In 2001 GSK and PATH Malaria Vaccination entered into a public-private partnership after PATH was given a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Path has gone on to invest over £200 million, the majority of it from the Gateses.

“Malaria has been incredibly difficult to crack. It’s been tremendously frustrating. But we are all immensely proud to have reached this milestone”. The WHO (World Health Organisation) have said they may give a recommendation by the end of this year, it would then be up to the African authorities to decide how they would implement the vaccination. Dr Pamba (who was born in Kenya, and now works between Nairobi and London) has said that the health ministers that he speaks to on a regular basis have been eagerly awaiting the vaccine “Pretty much every health minister I speak to has had malaria…they all want to know when it will be ready”.

Mosquirix scientifically named “RTS,S” is designed to prevent malaria that is caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite (most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of the 600,000 who die from the disease are based). It’s the first vaccine that has been developed which counters the effect of the parasite. Mosquirix is designed to stop the parasite entering red blood cells that leads to the disease symptoms, by preventing the parasite from infecting, maturing and multiplying within the liver and ending up in the bloodstream to begin with.

The trial programme was conducted by 13 African research centres, in eight different countries (Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Tanzania) and involved more than 16,000 young children. The children were broken up into two groups, infants between the ages of six-12 weeks and young children aged five-17 months. The data from the trial programme showed that after three doses of RTS,S over the first 18 months, malaria cases dropped by almost half in the older goup, and 27% in the younger infant group.

Sir Andrew Witty (CEO of GSK) explains “Today’s scientific opinion represents a further important step towards making available for young children the world’s first malaria vaccine.

“While RTS,S on its own is not the complete answer to malaria, its use alongside those interventions currently available such as bed nets and insecticides, would provide a very meaningful contribution to controlling the impact of malaria on children in those African communities that need it the most.”

Becky A @Bex18W

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