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First Malaria Vaccine May Save Thousands Of Lives, Study Suggests

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Researchers from the Imperial College London predicted through several mathematical calculations that that the world's first malaria vaccine may save thousands of lives over a 15-year time span.

The vaccine known as RTS,S was developed to prevent malaria caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. Clinical trials in Africa conducted in 2014 had proved the efficacy of the vaccine, researchers said.

The study, which was issued in the journal Lancet, compared data from the vaccine trials and found that the vaccine was 43.9 percent effective in children who were aged 5 to 17 months, 27.8 percent effective in children who were aged 6 to 12 weeks. These children were given the vaccine at birth and at two years old.

Researchers said that the findings would translate to one malaria-caused death prevented for every 200 children who are vaccinated. In a larger scale, 484 malaria-caused deaths would be prevented for every 100,000 children who are vaccinated.

The group's findings apply to regions in Africa where the prevalence of malaria ranges from moderate to significantly high or 10 to 65 percent.

Dr. Melissa Penny, the study's lead author, said their findings show that 6 to 29 percent of malaria-caused deaths in children who are five years old and younger could be prevented by vaccination in areas where it is implemented, especially if the method is practiced together with further malaria control interventions.

Researchers said that the vaccine would also be cost-effective at US$5 or less per dose in areas of moderate to high-malaria prevalence.

The study's authors warned, however, that there is still uncertainty regarding the efficiency of the vaccine as past trials only monitored children for four years after vaccination. The group said that the trials were not large enough and the quality of care given to the patients were high, so further validation is needed.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that there have been 438,000 deaths caused by malaria and 214 million malaria cases in which the majority occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria remains to be the leading cause of death for children in the region.

In Latin America, cases of malaria have decreased to roughly 80 percent from 1.2 million to 375,000, according to the WHO. The organization explained this was due to increased prevention and control of malaria in the Americas.

Photo : U.S. Army Africa | Flickr

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