The malaria vaccine tested by the Spanish researcher, Pedro Alonso, has entered its final stage. Although in the opinion of the director of the Center for Research in International Health of the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona (CRESIB), it is "a giant step", it is not the definitive solution to eradicate malaria.
The Prince of Asturias Award also for its fight against malaria, has indicated that the first generation of the vaccine, called RTS's, will be "registered for use in 2011, if all goes well, after the already initiated trials are concluded in the last phase of its development ".
The so-called phase III -started in May 2009- is the last step of the experimentation of a drug before its arrival in the market and, in addition, it is the most extensive study carried out so far in Africa.
It involved 11 centers in countries such as Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Kenya, Ghana, Gabon and Burkina Faso, which will vaccinate with RTS, S to 16 thousand children to test, not so much the efficacy of the drug, already demonstrated in earlier phases, but its security.
Alonso, who directs with his wife Clara Menéndez the health research center of Manhica, in Mozambique, has pointed out that this vaccine is "a step good enough to begin its large-scale application". This vaccine is between 30 and 50 percent effective, given that the malaria parasite is "extraordinarily complex".
For its part, the research team led by Freya Fowkes of the Walter and Eliza Hall Medical Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, have identified two molecules of the malaria parasite that could lead to the development of another type of vaccine.
People living in endemic areas develop a natural immunity and this has been the key to the Fowkes studies that have been dedicated to "investigate communities that live in endemic areas to see which antigens are immune and analyze if they can be used to make vaccines, "said Fowkes.
The malaria parasite multiplies by invading the red blood cells of its victims, so the vaccine against malaria has been difficult to manufacture because the parasite is very diverse and has many antigens on its surface.
"With measles, the person is infected by the disease and is immunized for life. With malaria, multiple infections are needed to develop a lasting immunity to the disease. It takes a while to acquire immunity that works for all the different antigens that provide long-term protection against malaria, "explained the Australian researcher.
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