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A seminar on malaria in this weeks issue of The Lancet states that it will be at least a decade before a vaccine for the disease will be ready for widespread use and emphasizes the need to expand the use of existing control methods.
Brian Greenwood of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom and colleagues state that prevention and treatment of malaria could be greatly improved with existing methods if increased financial and labor resources were available. Combination therapies based on drugs derived from the plant Artemisia annua (ACTs) have now been adopted by many endemic countries, although cost is likely to be a problem in ensuring their widespread use. ACTs are highly effective, even in areas where there is a high level of resistance to other anti-malarial drugs. Insecticide-treated bed-nets provide a simple but effective means of preventing malaria, especially with the development of long-lasting nets in which insecticide is incorporated into net fibers and is not removed during washing.
However, the authors state that new approaches to prevention and treatment are needed including malaria vaccines. One malaria vaccine, RTS, S/AS02 has provided substantial, short-lived protection in volunteers exposed experimentally to bites by infected mosquitoes and in semi-immune adults in The Gambia exposed to natural infection. In a subsequent trial in Mozambican children, the RTS, S/AS02 vaccine gave 30 percent protection against the first clinical episode of malaria and 58 percent protection against severe malaria. Other promising candidates are undergoing clinical trials.
Greenwood states, Malaria vaccine research has progressed rapidly over the past few years, helped by the availability more funds and by improved organization mediated through organizations such as the Malaria Vaccine Initiative. However, it is likely to be at least a decade before an efficacious vaccine is available for widespread use in malaria-endemic countries.
Source: The Lancet