New Malaria Vaccine Can be a Game Changer in Curtailing Malaria


Phase 2b clinical trials of R21/Matrix M (a new malaria vaccine) have shown the efficacy of 77%. It is a new version of RTS, S — another candidate against malaria. Experts believe that this new version could be a game-changer in curtailing the spread of malaria across the globe, especially during pandemic times. 

  • The results of phase 2b clinical trials of R21/Matrix M were published recently in the Lancet Journal.
  • The new malaria vaccine showed an efficacy of 77%, much higher than its previous version named RTS,S.
About Malaria:
  • Firstly, it is caused by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito if the mosquito itself is infected with a malarial parasite.
  • Secondly, there are five kinds of malarial parasites — Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax (the commonest ones), Plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium ovale, and Plasmodium knowlesi.
  • Thirdly, according to the World Malaria Report 2020, cases of Malaria in India dropped from about 20 million in 2000 to about 5.6 million in 2019.
  • Fourthly, globally 39 countries have declared themselves Malaria free. 
    • As per WHO, a country can be declared malaria-free when it reports zero indigenous cases of malaria for 3 or more years.
About the Previous Version:
  • RTS, S has been in development for more than 30 years. It is a joint work of Walter Reed Institute of Research, GlaxoSmithKline, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative.
  • It targets the liver stage protein of the Plasmodium falciparum life cycle.
  • Thus, it stops the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite from entering the liver thereby preventing the subsequent deadly blood stages.
  • To date, it is the only vaccine to reduce malaria in children. However, it doesn’t have high efficacy. 
About the new version:
  • R21/Matrix M is a modified version of RTS, S.
  • Scientists at the University of Oxford have been developing it for the last 6-7years. Serum Institute of India is manufacturing it.
  • The vaccine trial began in 2014-15 on 450 children in Burkina Faso. 
  • The result of the phase 2b trial showed a 77% efficacy. This made it the first vaccine to reach WHO’s goal of at least 75% efficacy.
Need of New Malaria Vaccine:
  • High Incidence of Malaria: In 2019, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria and 409 000 malaria-related deaths in 87 countries. In the same year, India witnessed 5.6 million cases.
    • Under 5 children in sub-saharan Africa accounted for approximately two-thirds of global deaths. 
  • Greater Hardships posed by Pandemic: As per a WHO survey, approximately one-third of countries around the world reported disruptions in malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services during the first quarter of 2021.
    • Disruptions occurred as people were unable or unwilling to seek care in health facilities.
    • Further lockdowns and restrictions on the movement led to delays in the delivery of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
What’s next?
  • Serum Institute of India and US vaccine maker Novavax have begun the process of phase 3 trials in 4 African countries.
    • This would assess large-scale safety and efficacy in 4,800 children aged five to 36 months.
  • The success of the trial would enable bulk production of the vaccine that would help curtail malaria across the globe.

Source: Indian Express 

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