An effective anti-malaria vaccine has been developed by a team of researchers at the Osaka University Research Institute for Microbial Diseases in Japan. The results of clinical trials conducted over a two-year period on location in Uganda, Africa, and published in the U.S. journal PLOS One confirm the BK-SE36 dry powder vaccine lowered the risk of acquiring malaria by a whopping 72 percent.
Toshihiro Horii (left), a professor at RIMD, have been working on an effective anti-malaria vaccine for quite some time.
Clinical trials in Japan of BK-SE36, a dry powder vaccine that is injected after being dissolved in water, were deemed successful as far back as 2005. Subsequent trials conducted in Uganda (where malaria is endemic) between 2010 and 2011 also showed positive results with an added bonus: test subjects reported no unusual side effects or immune reactions from their vaccinations.
A followup year-long survey of 132 Ugandan test subjects between the ages of 6 and 20 compared subjects who were vaccinated twice with BK-SE36 with others who were not vaccinated at all. Of the latter group, 21 of those not vaccinated came down with malaria while only 7 of the vaccinated subjects became ill. When various other factors were taken into consideration, the team concluded that use of the BK-SE36 vaccine lowered malaria risk by an astonishing 72 percent.
No anti-malaria vaccine is commercially available at present though progress is being made on a number of fronts, most notably by a British company working with a different type of vaccine. Clinical trials of this vaccine are promising though the reported 31 percent decline in malaria infection risk pales in comparison to the results achieved by Toshihiro Horii's team at RIMD.
Malaria is an ancient scourge caused by microscopic parasites of the genus Plasmodium. These parasites are spread by Anopheles mosquitoes and are responsible for approximately 660,000 people, mainly infants, annually according to the World Health Organization. Though historically prevalent in tropical regions, malaria is becoming a greater threat due to both increased air travel and the parasite's increasing resistance to previously effective modes of treatment and prevention.
“We want to put (our vaccine) to practical use in five years,” stated Toshihiro Horii, “after conducting a clinical trial on infants between zero and 5 who account for the bulk of malaria fatalities.” If successful, malaria could someday be relegated to the class of controllable mosquito-borne illnesses like Yellow Fever. (via News On Japan, The Japan Times, Jiji Press, and Vaccine Nation)