A malaria vaccine that has been in development for decades is finally nearing release after positive feedback from clinical trials.

The vaccine in question is commonly called Mosquirix and scientifically known as RTS,S. Mosquirix isn’t perfect yet; it has a calculated 46% efficacy against clinical malaria and a 36% efficacy against severe malaria according to data gathered by a European Medicines Agency (EMA) committee. Developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the vaccine has also received over $200 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Before moving forward, Mosquirix will now need to be examined by the World Health Organization (WHO) for safety and effectiveness.

If successful, Mosquirix will become the only available vaccine against malaria, a disease that claims thousands of lives per year. Children in Sub-Saharan Africa are often at the greatest risk, and Mosquirix targets infants specifically. The vaccine is most useful when applied to immune systems that are still in development and the trials demonstrate that it is most effective on children ages five to 17 months of age. In its current stage, four doses of the vaccine are needed in order to have an impact.

Malaria is a vector disease, transmitted by an animal host such as a mosquito. When administered correctly, Mosquirix prevents the parasite from maturing in the victim’s liver and proceeding to then enter the bloodstream and cause disease symptoms to manifest. When optimized, the vaccine cut cases of severe malaria by a third over a test period of four years, according to the BBC.

WHO states that 2017 is the earliest that the vaccine can be officially licensed, but GSK has already pledged to keep the project a non-profit endeavor. While the vaccine may not be a “magic bullet” in the fight against a deadly disease, it represents an important step forward and one of many reasons why the world needs the STEM fields.

 

Jobs: Physician, Immunologist

Activity: This NOVA experiment is designed to simulate how viruses spread. Students are each given envelopes, three of which contain green strips that represent infection. The activity shows not just how disease is transmitted, but how it can be traced and studied.

Sources: TIME, CNN Money

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