European Agency OKs Malaria Vaccine for Possible Licensing

European Agency OKs Malaria Vaccine for Possible Licensing

European regulators have given a green light to a prospective new malaria vaccine, setting it on the path to possible licensing and assessment by the World Health Organization.

The European Medicines Agency said Friday that the drug known as "Mosquirix," or "RTS,S" should be licensed for babies and very young children, despite mixed results in efficacy testing.

The GlaxoSmithKline-made drug, developed in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, could become the first malaria vaccine.  It targets a mosquito-borne disease that kills some 584,000 people per year, according to the WHO. The UN health agency says more than 75 percent of malaria victims are children, the majority of them are in Africa.

In testing, children aged five to 17 months saw a protection rate of about 50 percent in their first year, dropping by half after four years. Booster shots increased the protection rate to 36 percent after four years.

Among babies aged six to 12 weeks, the protection rate was only 27 percent, though again booster shots were helpful in prolonging the efficacy over the first few years of life.

The next step for the vaccine is review by the WHO, which will make a policy recommendation for possible use of the drug alongside other tools proven to reduce malaria rates.

Despite other drug treatments, the most effective tool for preventing malaria is insecticide-treated bed nets, to ward off the mosquitoes that carry the disease.


WHO: Unsafe Injections Major Cause of Hepatitis Death 

In advance of World Hepatitis Day (July 28), the World Health Organization is calling for urgent action to curb millions of infections and deaths from viral hepatitis.

Hepatitis is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause acute and chronic disease. It is often called a silent epidemic because the harm it causes tends to be overlooked.

But WHO notes hepatitis is the seventh leading cause of death. It estimates 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B and up to 150 million are infected with the hepatitis C virus. Together, hepatitis B and C account for about 1.5 million deaths every year.

Preventing infection

WHO Global Hepatitis Program team leader Stefan Wiktor says all the tools needed to prevent the infection and deaths are available. He says there is a great vaccine for hepatitis B, good laboratory tests that can screen out infection in the blood supply, and safe injection equipment.

“To prevent death there is treatment," he said. "There is hepatitis treatment for hepatitis B, which can control the disease or suppress the virus, not cure it. Whereas, for hepatitis C. there is now drugs that can cure almost everybody with hepatitis C. That has been the most dramatic development in the last few years, that these new drugs that really transform how we think about hepatitis and it is leading people to start talking about elimination. Elimination of hepatitis as a public health problem in the future.”

The cost of the so-called miracle drugs for Hepatitis C are out of reach for most people around the world. A 12-week course of treatment costs $84,000 in rich countries. But Egypt has successfully negotiated the price down to $900 and the World Health Organization believes prices will continue to fall in coming years.

The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood or other bodily fluids. Most infections occur from mother to child. Hepatitis B prevalence is highest in sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia.

The hepatitis C virus is a blood borne virus, which is most commonly transmitted through injecting drug use. WHO Service Delivery and Safety Department Director Edward Kelley says preventing unsafe injections is key to curbing this epidemic.

“Unsafe injections account for 32 percent of hepatitis B infections, about 40 percent of hepatitis C... the most frequent medical procedure in the world today are injections, 16 billion a year and the rate of unsafe injections of those 16 billion, we estimate is about 40 percent,” she said.

The World Health Organization is campaigning for the elimination of unsafe injections by promoting the exclusive use of sterile syringes that are specifically designed to prevent reuse.

European Agency OKs Malaria Vaccine for Possible Licensing European Agency OKs Malaria Vaccine for Possible Licensing Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 7:02 PM Rating: 5

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