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RTS,S VaccineA new vaccine known as the RTS,S vaccine is currently being piloted in the African nations of Ghana, Malawi and Kenya.  The RTS,S vaccine has been in development for over 32 years. It is the first malaria vaccine that has been shown to provide young children with partial protection from malaria.

What is Malaria?

Every single year, the malaria virus kills one million people around the world. It is estimated that 300-600 million people suffer from malaria every year. Additionally, 90 percent of malaria cases occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of malaria’s victims are children under the age of five.

According to UNICEF, Malaria kills one child every thirty seconds, which is about 3,000 children every single day. Malaria hinders children’s social development and schooling. Furthermore, malaria is a major cause of poverty. For example, the cost of malaria control and treatment actually slows economic development in Africa by 1.3 percent.

RTS,S Malaria Vaccine Pilots

In clinical trials, the RTS,S vaccine was found to prevent about 4 out of 10 malaria cases. Additionally, it proved to prevent 3 in 10 cases of severe, life-threatening malaria. The malaria vaccine has also been shown to reduce severe malaria anemia by 60 percent. Severe malaria anemia is the most prevalent reason that children die from malaria.

The organizations of Unitaid, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria funded and supported these pilots.

Impact

Currently, an estimated 360,000 children are expected to receive the RTS,S vaccine through immunization programs in certain areas of Malawi, Ghana and Kenya. However, the main weakness of the immunization programs is in how they store and transport the vaccines. The effectiveness of a vaccine is dependent on whether it is in a properly-functioning cold chain. This refers to a system of transporting and storing vaccines at the proper temperatures from when they are manufactured to when they are used.

To ensure that vaccines properly fulfill their duty of vaccinating children from malaria, there needs to be an increased focus on the protection and storage of these vaccines in their proper cold chains. It is vital to invest in proper storage equipment and maintenance of that storage equipment. This equipment will retain the vaccine’s efficacy. It is also crucial to invest in roads and infrastructure so the vaccines can be properly transported to those in need.

Innovation

A technological innovation that has changed and improved the transportation of malaria vaccines is the use of drones. The Rwandan tech firm Zipline has already launched drones that are used to transport medication, vaccines, blood and other essential health care items.

Starting out in Rwanda, the firm has also expanded its lifesaving services into Ghana. The drones fly at 100 kilometers and are able to make deliveries in 30 minutes that otherwise could take five hours by car. The drones also are able to fly through any type of terrain. Therefore, they can easily reach remote villages without requiring any sort of local infrastructure at the scene. ZipLine is able to make up to 500 delivers a day. Thanks to its services, ZipLine has provided 13 million people instant access to urgent, life-saving treatments.

The RTS,S vaccine is an effective vaccine that is vital in protecting young children from malaria. By drastically reducing cases of severe malaria anemia, the RTS,S vaccine is saving lives. To continue saving lives and to further build the efficacy of the vaccine, it is crucial to focus on investing in the proper infrastructure for storage and transportation of the vaccine.

– Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Flickr

Glasko Smith Kline Fights Poverty
Around the world, health challenges are coupled with extreme poverty. Those who live in and experience extreme poverty are more likely to suffer from diseases and lack equipment to fend off and eradicate those diseases. However, organizations are working to provide vaccinations and medications globally to those in need. An excellent example of one such organization is Glasko Smith Kline — a group who fights poverty through global healthcare.

What is Glasko Smith Kline?

Glasko Smith Kline (GSK) is a “science-led global healthcare company with a special purpose: to help people do more, feel better, live longer.” The company hopes to be innovative in their methods of healthcare by trying to reach as many people as possible. Glasko Smith Kline Fights Poverty through three areas of research and development in pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare products.

In the pharmaceutical arena, GSK is currently working on new medicines for HIV diseases and oncology. The organization has been a leader in respiratory disease for over forty years and has strengthened its repertoire of medications in recent years. GSK has an extensive portfolio for their vaccinations — they deliver two million vaccine doses per day to over 160 countries. Lastly, the consumer health care business focuses on oral health, pain relief, respiratory, nutrition and skin health. GSK leads in both over-the counter healthcare companies worldwide and rankings within the Wellness category in 36 markets.

GSK championed the effort to develop the first ever malaria vaccination, which took approximately thirty years to develop. Although preventative efforts have decreased the number of African children dying from malaria, vaccinations continue to decrease the mortality rate.

First Steps Towards Change

As of 2017, Ghana, Kenya and Malawi were set to begin the pilot vaccine with young children the following year. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal is to eradicate malaria by 2040, and as WHO works to implement these vaccines, GSK will eventually work to analyze the vaccine’s effectiveness and side effects. These findings will compliment the pilot evaluation data.

According to Access to Medicine Foundation’s index of drug companies, Glasko Smith Kline ranks first out of drug-making companies in its availability to developing companies. This nonprofit also reports that GSK’s major strength is research, and that its development projects are in need of further attention.

GSK and Save the Children

Glasko Smith Kline Fights Poverty in partnership with an organization called Save the Children. Save the Children advocates for children’s rights, basic needs and human rights. This organization works towards increased education, lower mortality rates and better health for the most vulnerable of human beings.

Save the Children recognizes that poverty is a common cause that effects a child’s future; therefore, the organization works to give a child a healthy start to life. The goal of the global partnership between GSK and Save the Children is to combine their expertise of global health and children rights to provide resources to save the lives of one million of the world’s poorest children.

Overall, Glasko Smith Kline Fights Poverty through multiple avenues. They utilize their strengths in consumer healthcare, vaccinations and medications, research breakthrough finds, and deliver these solutions to the people who are most in need. Also, by collaborating with other organizations, GSK is able to expand its reach to eradicate poverty through their passion for global healthcare.

– Jenna Walmer
Photo: Flickr

Elimination of Malaria by 2040: How Developing Countries Benefit
Malaria is a parasitic condition that is contracted primarily through the bite of an infectious Anopheles mosquito. Currently, sub-Saharan Africa suffers from the greatest disease burden of malaria as a consequence of widespread poverty and poor living conditions.

Malaria has serious social and economic implications. It is estimated that each year, Africa incurs a health care cost of $12 billion as a result of malaria. This cost imposes a significant strain on the continent’s financial resources. It also forces compromises to be made in other aspects such as a provision of schooling facilities and treatment of debilitating infections.

The elimination of malaria has always been an important but elusive objective of the global health care movement. Despite years of investment in research, no vaccine is currently available that offers complete protection against malaria. According to the World Health Organization, efforts are being focused on developing a clinically efficacious vaccine that protects against the most serious variant of malaria that is caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

Recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a humanitarian organization aimed at improving lives of the poor, has declared an ambitious objective: to eliminate malaria by the year 2040. The organization aims to achieve this goal through increased involvement of world leaders in the process of ending malaria. The foundation also aspires to involve countries afflicted with malaria in the movement by encouraging them to implement local strategies to tackle malaria.

The motive behind the movement is simply the fact that if malaria is not eliminated completely, countries could be tirelessly working toward the development of new vaccines, medications and prevention strategies to contain the spread of cases. This is not an economically viable solution for controlling malaria transmission — it represents a drain on valuable health care resources that can be used for the treatment of other life-threatening conditions such as cancer.

Increasing drug resistance of the organisms involved in the causation of malaria has limited the effectiveness of strategies targeted at the elimination of malaria. Currently, in Seattle, several research projects are experimenting with novel methods such as genetic modification to eliminate malaria.

With approximately 3.2 billion individuals globally estimated to be at risk of malaria, it is essential to control the spread of this disease. Malaria tends to be concentrated in regions of poverty, further exacerbating standards of living. As a result of the increasing connectivity of the world and the ease of access to different countries, travel has further increased the risk of spread of malaria to countries that are not typically affected by the condition.

The elimination of malaria by 2040 is a glorious yet difficult objective to achieve. Implementing pragmatic measures over the next few decades such as increasing awareness about malaria, improving sanitation and hygiene in poor countries, and prevention campaigns can bring us one step closer to the complete eradication of malaria.

Tanvi Ambulkar

Photo: Flickr

Mosquirix: New Malaria Vaccine Approved
Thanks to the efforts of GlaxoSmithKline and the generous support of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s first malaria vaccine has been approved by regulators at the European Medicine Agency. The drug is called Mosquirix, and although it is likely not the end-all solution to the widespread disease, it is a stepping stone in the right direction.

GSK worked with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative to create the immunization, which is meant for use in tropical and subtropical areas where the illness is prevalent and largely uncontrolled. Called RTS,S in its experimental stages, Mosquirix is designed for children 6-17 months old whose immune systems are still developing.

Mosquirix works to prevent malaria by attacking Plasmodium falciparum parasites. These parasites multiply in the livers of people affected by malaria and head into the bloodstream where they cause more severe symptoms. This approach to preventing malaria is different than those of other vaccines, which seek to take down viruses and bacteria.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed over $200 million to the drug’s research and development, and GSK is optimistic that it will be effective in reducing incidences of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa where cases of malaria caused by the parasite are most common. Of the nearly 600,000 deaths related to malaria in 2013, 90 percent of these occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa; 83 percent in children under the age of five in the same region.

Studies show that Mosquirix reduces malaria cases by only a third and that its protection decreases in the long term. However, experts agree that some results are better than no results. In conjunction with other protective measures like insecticide-treated bed-nets, Mosquirix may become an important part of the malaria fight.

The main road bump for Mosquirix? Distribution. The vaccine may exist, but to the young children in Africa who need it, it may as well be a fantasy.

The question is whether the distribution of the vaccination to areas where it is needed is worth the time and the money. The World Health Organization is skeptical of the feasibility of Mosquirix’s implementation and has not yet issued a recommendation for its use. Officials at the WHO are worried that financing for the vaccine may “draw away from scaling up bed nets, effective drugs and rapid diagnostic tests for malaria.”

There is a reason that most vaccines are not made against parasites – unlike bacteria or a virus, a parasite has a complicated life cycle that transports it around the body. Parasites like those that cause malaria can remain living in the body for years.

However, the news that it is possible for a malaria vaccine to be developed and approved is promising. Whether or not Mosquirix achieves outstanding success, discussion surrounding it is undoubtedly paving the way for future malaria-related drug research.

Katie Pickle

Sources: NBC News, Tech Times
Photo: Press Herald