Each year, malaria kills more than 1 million people -- 90% of them in sub-Saharan Africa and 80% of them younger than 5 -- and makes 300 million people seriously ill. Major progress in controlling the disease has been made by the widespread adoption of bed nets to keep mosquitoes from attacking children at night and by the use of artemisinin-based therapy, which is the most effective treatment for infections.
But vaccines have historically proved the best technique for controlling infectious diseases, and researchers have high hopes for a new one called RTS,S/AS2A, or Mosquirix.
A massive trial of it is underway in Africa, with 5,000 children already enrolled. If results are favorable, marketing approval could be sought as soon as 2012, making it the first commercial vaccine available for the disease, researchers said this week in announcing the trial at the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria Pan-African Malaria Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.
"This is a tremendous moment in the fight against malaria and the culmination of more than two decades of research, including 10 years of clinical trials in Africa," said Dr. Joe Cohen, a vice president of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals. The company is producing the vaccine for the Phase 3 trial; Cohen is a co-inventor of it.