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  • RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT

World's first malaria vaccine shows promise in Africa

Lateral view of a feeding female Anopheles atroparvus mosquito in the process of obtaining its blood mealCredit: CDC/James Gathany

Results of a clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of seasonal vaccination with the world’s first malaria vaccine RTS,S/AS01E (RTS,S) in preventing uncomplicated malaria and severe malaria-related outcomes, has shown it is comparable to seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC). But combining the two interventions reduced malaria incidence and deaths in children by about 70% percent compared to either intervention alone.

The trial was carried out in Mali’s Bougouni district and neighboring areas, and in Burkina Faso’s Houndé district. A total of 6861 children aged between 5 and 17 months were randomly divided into three groups — members of the ‘chemoprevention-alone’ group received sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine and amodiaquine, those in the vaccine-alone group received the RTS,S/AS01E only, and those placed in the combination group received both chemoprevention and RTS,S/AS01E. The participants were monitored for three years.

The researchers concluded that chemoprevention was not superior to the administration of RTS,S/AS01E in preventing uncomplicated malaria. They added that combining the interventions “resulted in a substantially lower incidence of uncomplicated malaria, severe malaria, and death from malaria than either intervention alone”.

Ashley Birkett, director of PATH’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative (PATH) noted that “the evidence from Burkina Faso and Mali suggests that in areas with highly seasonal malaria, using the RTS,S vaccine just prior to the peak transmission season, in combination with current malaria control interventions, could have a major impact.” The vaccine is also being rolled out in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi in a pilot programme.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d44148-021-00077-2

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