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Biotech Medicine Science

New Vaccine Halves Malaria Risk 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the hard-work-paying-off dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to a report in Reuters, scientists are celebrating the end of a clinical trial which found a malaria vaccine reduces infection risk by half in children. From the article: 'While scientists say it is no "silver bullet" and will not end the mosquito-borne infection on its own, it is being hailed as a crucial weapon in the fight against malaria and one that could speed the path to eventual worldwide eradication. Malaria is caused by a parasite carried in the saliva of mosquitoes. It kills more than 780,000 people per year, most of them babies or very young children in Africa. Cohen's vaccine goes to work at the point when the parasite enters the human bloodstream after a mosquito bite. By stimulating an immune response, it can prevent the parasite from maturing and multiplying in the liver. ... Cohen said that if all goes to plan, RTS,S could be licensed and rolled out by 2015.'"
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New Vaccine Halves Malaria Risk

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  • ...so will this vaccine and others become useless in a few years, as malaria seems to have become resistant to other treatments over the years?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Vaccines != antibiotics.

      • True but vaccines train the body to recognise markers so one presumes that a strain of malaria may arise without the markers that are recognised.

        • by mlush (620447)

          True but vaccines train the body to recognise markers so one presumes that a strain of malaria may arise without the markers that are recognised.

          Possibly, the big achievement is find anything to target. malarias coat proteins are highly polymorphic to better avoid the immune system and all the stable stuff is hidden under the coat protein.

          If a resistant strain does become prevalent it should be possible to create a vaccine against that

    • by mspohr (589790) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @12:00PM (#37763314)
      Malaria has a complex life cycle, part in mosquitoes and part in humans. It also has a lot of natural variability in the surface antigens of the different life stages (these change frequently and have a large amount of regional variation). For these reasons, some people (in particular, Robert S. Desowitz) have held that it would be impossible to develop a malaria vaccine which would be effective for more than a short time in a given location.

      Malaria has been effective at developing resistance to treatments over the years and could also be effective at evading the vaccine.

  • Is it just bronze then?
  • A vaccine which could save almost a million lives should be donated to humanity.
    • That's basically what they're doing. From Reuters [reuters.com]:

      The company has previously said it would charge only the cost of manufacturing it plus a 5 percent mark-up, which would be reinvested into tropical disease research. "We are not going to make any money from this project," Witty said.

  • Africa needs an effective vaccine against babies more than a vaccine against mosquitoes.
    • Re:Child vaccine (Score:5, Informative)

      by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @09:13AM (#37761202)
      Boy did you walk into that one!

      One of the Gates Foundation biggest health initiatives is family planning [gatesfoundation.org].

      Family Planning Overview

      Family planning saves lives.

      One of the most cost-effective public health interventions available today is family planning. Voluntary family planning is a critical lifesaving intervention that can significantly improve the health of women and their families.

      Through family planning:

      • Maternal mortality is reduced. Family planning could prevent up to one third of all maternal deaths by allowing women to delay motherhood, space births, avoid unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions, and stop childbearing when they have reached their desired family size.
      • Deaths and illness among young women are reduced. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for women under 19, with complications of childbirth and unsafe abortion being the major factors. Adolescents aged 15 to 19 are twice as likely to die in childbirth as those in their 20s, and girls under 15 are five times as likely to die as those in their 20s.
      • Child health and survival is improved. Reducing the number of births less than two years apart, births to very young and older women, and higher-order births, family planning lowers child and infant mortality. For example, if women spaced their births at least 36 months apart, almost 3 million deaths to children under age 5 could be averted.

        ...

      Seriously, they get it. Enough that they are drawing the ire [jesus-is-savior.com] of certain other groups, for what it's worth.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tverbeek (457094)
        When people that insane are against you, there's a good chance you're doing something right.
      • VOLUNTARY family planning. When has that EVER worked in a poor heavily Catholic or Muslim country?

    • by maroberts (15852)

      Africa needs an effective vaccine against babies more than a vaccine against mosquitoes.

      The two are related; people have more babies when they are aware that many of their offspring may not survive till adulthood. They will generally have less if the chances that their children will survive are greater.

  • Incredible Result (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Covalent (1001277) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @08:35AM (#37760824)
    Malaria is incredibly resistant to both the immune system and treatment. This is an impressive result.

    And as for all of the "Won't this lead to overpopulation" comments, I think it will do the opposite. Birth rates in malaria areas are very high in part because of the poverty and lack of education in those areas. Those areas are poor in part because of malaria and its ability to ravage families. There may be an initial population spike from this vaccine, but time and again we have seen that increasing the standard of living lowers the birth rate. The best way to control overpopulation is to reduce poverty and educate people (specifically women). This vaccine goes a long way to doing both.
    • by swb (14022)

      So which lowers birth rates, increased economic standards of living or relief from the disease pressure of malaria? I also don't see where preventing malaria increases education, women's or anyone else's, or reduces poverty by any direct means.

      I think this is great for people who live in malarial areas as a means to reduce misery, but I think there's a lot of weak conclusions drawn about the larger impact of reducing malaria, especially in the face of endemic poverty, political instability, political repre

      • by kkwst2 (992504)

        Well, for one, a huge amount of resources now are spent by humanitarian organizations in treating and fighting malaria. If this puts a significant dent in that, some of the expense and effort put into fighting malaria can be used for education, training, building infrastructure, etc.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        You're a school age child, particularly a girl. Your family is better off than some, and you have a chance to go to school. Someone in your family gets sick. Now you either have to stay home and care for him or her, or you have to stay home and do his job. Perhaps he recovers, perhaps he doesn't. Either way, you're probably not going back to school.

        Maybe it's you that's sick. Same effect. Malaria doesn't just kill instantly, it makes you sick for an extended period of time. If you recover you often

  • If we vaccinate humans, we can fight a disease with immunity. But we won't vaccinate cattle. Rather than fight the diseases, we gladly slaughter our entire fauna, but won't fight the diseases.
    • by jpstanle (1604059)

      Huh? Is malaria infection a big problem with European cattle? Is there some other disease ravaging European cattle herds that could easily be prevented with a vaccine that isn't used?

      I don't quite understand what point you are trying to get across. Could you clarify?

      • by rvw (755107)

        Huh? Is malaria infection a big problem with European cattle? Is there some other disease ravaging European cattle herds that could easily be prevented with a vaccine that isn't used?

        I don't quite understand what point you are trying to get across. Could you clarify?

        Not malaria, but diseases like Q-fever and pig plague/swine fever do have vaccins. For some reason they don't want to vaccinate, and thus they kill the complete stock. I believe using the vaccine results in not being able to get a clear picture of the disease, where is spreads, if it stops, etc.

  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @08:49AM (#37760962) Homepage

    I was going to say, aren't Africans immune to malaria? But wiki [wikipedia.org] sayeth: apparently only a third of sub-Saharan Africans are immune to malaria.

    • by tverbeek (457094)
      Where on earth would you get the idea that Africans were immune? Did you think that it was only killing hundreds of thousands of Europeans and Asians per year in Africa?
      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        >Where on earth would you get the idea that Africans were immune?

        Am I missing something? The reference is right there in the post you responded to.

        I thought it was well known that Africans who have sick-cell anemia have the upside of being immune to malaria. What I didn't know is that not all Africans have this immunity, which I luckily checked before posting.

        • by kkwst2 (992504)

          Perhaps you are missing that your comment demonstrated an astounding combination of ignorance and lack of reading comprehension. Sickle cell TRAIT (heterozygotes) makes you resistant, not immune, to malaria. Sickle cell anemia (homozygotes) makes you die early (and generally have a painful and debilitating life before that without treatment). Says so right in the article you linked to. And to not know that nearly a million Africans are dying from malaria each year is remarkable.

    • In the happy side effect camp, the "immunity" to malaria involves sickle cell anemia which has its own huge set of problems. If you end malaria, then you also end natural selection for sickle cell and make their whole society healthier in the long term.
  • by retroworks (652802) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @08:50AM (#37760968) Homepage Journal
    Malaria kills about 2414 people per day. But the number one cause of death for women in places like Lagos and Cairo is blood loss during childbirth. The West's invention of a malaria vaccine will be hugely important. But in the meantime, during Cohen's 24 years of working on the vaccines, the west has criminalized the sale of surplus property from USA hospitals to emerging markets. Shredding our own surplus property causes our health care costs to go up, and forces emerging markets to buy brand new equipment they cannot afford, which takes money they need - to buy malaria vaccines. They need computers and need basic things like hospital beds. Here is a link to a story which ran yesterday, that "medical waste" was illegally shipped to Brazil. Had the story translated... it was uniforms and beds. The message is that Western hospitals cannot share surplus property - computers, blood gas analyzers, or beds - with emerging markets. By coincidence, 24 years ago I lived in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, and had to dig a grave for a colleagues two year old son. I kept links there and have been trying to help the hospitals during the same 24 years. During the past 24 years, while Cohen perfected his vaccine, donations of surplus property to hospitals in Africa has been criminalized. Sometimes simple things, like donating hospital beds, can save as many people over the period as a new vaccine. The system is sick. http://retroworks.blogspot.com/2011/10/headline-medical-waste-exported-to.html [blogspot.com]
  • Unlikely, but, would it be possible to design it in a way that it works in mosquitoes as well? (So, that the mosquito might possibly get the antibodies as well?)

    If oral vaccination works for polio in humans - would it be possible to design an oral vaccination that might help eradicate the Malaria pathogens in mosquitoes? (i.e. can we 'cure' the mosquitoes before they bite us again?)

    • by tverbeek (457094)
      It works by triggering the human immune system. I can't imagine that mosquitoes have anything resembling that to work with.
    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      can we 'cure' the mosquitoes before they bite us again?

      We can introduce male mosquito genetically altered to have glow in the dark genes. This would help to eradicate the species of mosquito that caries malaria.

      http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/genetic/gm-mosquito.htm [howstuffworks.com]

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      There has been some work on vaccinating mosquitos. It was posted on Slashdot a few years ago.

  • Why 2015? What's taking 3 years?
  • I was under the impression that most African countries that have the highest incidences of death by Malaria roughly correlate to the countries that also have death via famine. If that is the case, where's the food coming from for the extra 390,000 people that won't be dying every year? Will they just end up dying of starvation instead?

    • by rvw (755107)

      I was under the impression that most African countries that have the highest incidences of death by Malaria roughly correlate to the countries that also have death via famine. If that is the case, where's the food coming from for the extra 390,000 people that won't be dying every year? Will they just end up dying of starvation instead?

      If a woman gives birth to a child that dies, that's a big waste of human energy. Having to give birth just three times (in a lifetime) instead of five (as an example) means more time and energy for work and earning money. Plus think of the grief of the loss of those children, that has a big impact on your life, another waste of energy, even if it's quite common in Africa.

      • by rvw (755107)

        I was under the impression that most African countries that have the highest incidences of death by Malaria roughly correlate to the countries that also have death via famine. If that is the case, where's the food coming from for the extra 390,000 people that won't be dying every year? Will they just end up dying of starvation instead?

        If a woman gives birth to a child that dies, that's a big waste of human energy. Having to give birth just three times (in a lifetime) instead of five (as an example) means more time and energy for work and earning money. Plus think of the grief of the loss of those children, that has a big impact on your life, another waste of energy, even if it's quite common in Africa.

        Plus, there are not more children born, probably only less children die. There might be a spike in the first few years however.

        • In many cases, they have large families just to be sure that some of them will live long enough to grow up. If you can prevent childhood death, then the need to produce replacement children goes down.
  • by RNLockwood (224353) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @09:14AM (#37761210) Homepage

    If this really works and is widely deployed then governments need to figure out how to clothe, feed, educate, and find jobs for the the increased population. If not the increase of disadvantaged persons will probably breed civil unrest and war.

    • by mjr167 (2477430)
      So I suppose we should just nuke Africa because those people aren't worth saving?
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      We could just nuke them from orbit.

      Malaria doesn't just kill you right there and then. It can produce a life time of sickness. Victims of Malaria can now work as hard as healthy people. Cutting the number of not just deaths but infections will free up resources that got to treatment now plus create new resources of healthy people to feed, educate, and clothe those nations. Hopefully. The problem will still be those "groups" of armed idiots and corrupt governments.

  • Pliny knew you could cure malaria by drinking tea made from olive leaf. It is not an accident that 75% of all medications are derived or synthesized from natural sources.

  • Vacines give you #$%#$% terrets! Syn#$%$#drom!
    dont take them, im not even #$%# playin.

  • Knocking out the weaklings and leaving the all-stars; how is this just not a fast-track to even more resistant malaria strains? This could end up as yet another unintended consequence wreaked on Africa by (this time) well-meaning Westerners.
  • There are couple of issues with the paper. 1. effect on young patients have not been analyzed. 2. The participants received exceptional medical care and therefore there was no difference between control and experimental group in terms of mortality. 3. Protection is partial unlike other vaccines. 4. It is not clear why did they publish the partial results. The associated editorial in the issue by Nicholas J. White is thought-provoking.

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