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Encouraging early stage progress with candidate malaria vaccine PfSEA-1

Friday, 23 May 2014 10:38 by General
There is encouraging news about progress with a potential malaria vaccine, PfSEA-1.
 
A study in Tanzania took regular blood samples from a group of 1,000 children living in a highly malarious area, in the first years of their lives. 6% of these children developed a naturally acquired immunity to malaria. They produce an antibody that attacks the malaria-causing parasite.
 
What is particularly interesting about this candidate vaccine is the source of the compound being investigated: antibodies found in humans. This is different from many candidate vaccines which do not have a ‘starting point’ in humans. This may be an indication of a higher probability of a positive outcome at the human trials stage where proof is required of both the efficacy and safety of the vaccine.
 
The research team said they were encouraged by the results but stress more research is required. Trials are now needed in primates and humans to fully assess the vaccine's promise.
 
 
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Watch the developing world 'develop' in 3 minutes!

Monday, 18 November 2013 11:21 by General
A fascinating - and perhaps surprising - summary of progress in the developing world. A brilliant, clear, 3 minute video.
 
 
Hans Rosling says 'Most people think the problems in the countries in Africa are unsolvable. But if the poorest countries can just follow [this path] it is fully possible that the world will look like this in 2030. Then there will be no countries left in the box we once called 'the developing world'. But to ensure that happens we must measure... By measuring the progress in the once labelled “developing countries”, preventable child mortality can be history by the year 2030.' We agree. With bednet distributions that help address the malaria problem, measuring means collecting data on net delivery and continued use, which also allows us to be accountable to donors as to how their donations are spent. 
 
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Malaria cases reach a 40-year high in the United States

Monday, 4 November 2013 11:22 by General

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 1,925 malaria cases were reported in the United States in 2011. This number is the highest since 1971 and represents a 14% increase since 2010.

CDC says 'Almost all of the malaria cases reported in the U.S. were acquired overseas. More than two-thirds (69%) of the cases were imported from Africa and for the first time, India was the country from which the most cases were imported. Cases showed seasonal peaks in January and August.'

More at:  Malaria Nexus and CDC

  

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Some questions about nets and vaccines

Thursday, 19 September 2013 10:36 by RobMather

We were recently asked several questions and felt the questions and our comments might be of interest to a wider audience.

  1. Bed nets protect at night. What about during the day? 
    The overwhelming majority of malaria-carrying mosquitoes bite at night, typically between 10pm and 2am. Hence the importance and effectiveness of the net.

  2. In your opinion, is donating to malaria vaccine development more or less worthy than donating to LLIN distribution, and why? 
    I'd stick to a fact and a hope. The fact is that if enough bednets were deployed and continued to be used so universal coverage of communities is achieved – eminently achievable if the funds were there – then we can dramatically reduce the level of malaria and, broadly speaking, bring malaria 'under control'. That does not mean elimination as that is a specific scientific term, but 'under control' means a level of malaria that is an order of magnitude, if not several orders of magnitude, below what it is today. A hope is that a vaccine will be found. Finding one has proved, and is proving, very difficult indeed. Finding one requires research and that requires money so I am fully supportive of all and every attempt to find a vaccine. If one were found, it would have a dramatic impact on the fight against malaria. There are a number of groups and very wealthy philanthropists who have made significant donations to vaccine research work. So, eggs in two baskets, not one. If I have to personally decide where I place my $100 donation, now? Bednets to protect people, now. Our most recent vaccine update.
 
 

 

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A very good TED talk from Sonia Shah

Friday, 13 September 2013 10:38 by General

A very good TED talk from Sonia Shah: a malaria 101 also covering 'why aren’t we rid of malaria yet?'

 
 
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Q&A on resistance to main drug used to treat malaria (artemisinin)

Thursday, 12 September 2013 10:53 by General
There is a good summary here: Q&A on artemisinin resistance 

Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are the main drugs used to treat malaria. In the majority of the world they work. In some parts of Asia resistance to ACTs has been seen because some strains of malaria are resistant to artemisinin. This is not good. There are five different ACTs and if one does not treat a particular patient, the patient is still cured as part of a longer treatment regimen, provided they are treated with an ACT containing a partner drug that is effective in that geographical area. So far, resistance is confined to four South-East Asian countries: Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, all in the Greater Mekong subregion.

Geographic containment efforts may slow the spread of artemisinin resistance. A solution to artemisinin resistance is likely to require new malaria drugs not based on artemisinin.

Scientists have developed a simple, rapid blood test to determine the malaria parasite's resistance to artemisinin. This can help identify patients who need a second ACT to help them recover from malaria.

One implication of the reduction in efficacy of drugs to treat malaria is the need to work harder and faster to bring malaria under control so fewer people are at risk. And that’s where bednets come in.
 
 
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Malaria vaccine shows early promise in clinical trials

Friday, 9 August 2013 14:25 by RobMather
Everyone involved in malaria control has a fervent wish a malaria vaccine is found.
 
There is promising news about one potential malaria vaccine, called PfSPZ, at an early stage of trials.
 
"A malaria vaccine has become the first to provide 100% protection against the disease, confounding critics and far surpassing any other experimental malaria vaccine tested. It will now be tested further in clinical trials in Africa. The results are important because they demonstrate for the first time the concept that a malaria vaccine can provide a high level of protection, says Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, adding that the findings are cause for 'cautious optimism'" says an article in Nature.
 
There are significant further trials required - and other vaccines that have shown early promise have proved not viable - as well as there being potential delivery (i.e. pill, standard injection or intravenous injection) and logistics (i.e. does the vaccine need to be kept cold?) hurdles to overcome.
 
A good summary seems the following from an article on discovermagazine.com: "Researchers aren't sure if this particular vaccine will prevent all strains of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, and having to take five intravenous vaccines is not practical for large-scale use at this point. Still, the effective protection demonstrated in this study is a promising first step toward developing a more realistic anti-malarial vaccine that doesn't require hundreds of mosquito bites."
 
The BBC reports "There are currently about 20 malaria vaccine candidates in clinical trials."
   
You can also find out more at Malaria Nexus and Science.
 
 
 
 
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We welcome the National Audit Office's advice to spend funds effectively and efficiently.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013 16:29 by General
A recent report by the UK's National Audit Office (NAO) has said, as reported by the BBC, "'Too few' bed nets paid for by UK [government] are being used".
 
The BBC article continues, "Not enough anti-malarial bed nets paid for by the UK [government] are being used around the world, ministers have been warned. ...the National Audit Office said usage among target groups, such as children, was disappointing... The watchdog urged the UK to work with aid recipients to "change attitudes" and to ensure proper value for money...  The NAO's report, which drew on first-hand research in Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Nigeria and Burma, said the countries had been "well-chosen" but questioned the effectiveness of some of the spending. There had been a 23% increase in the number of families in the four countries owning a mosquito net since 2010 but usage by target groups such as children had increased by just 11.6%."
 
In our view this underlines the importance of distribution procedures and data collection that allows
1. Verification of nets reaching intended beneficiaries and
2. Regular post-distribution monitoring to understand continuing net usage.
 
AMF has faced challenges with some potential distributions in trying to ensure these elements are part of a distribution plan and, where their inclusion has not been possible, has been unable to agree to fund nets. We see these elements as key.
  
See also:
 
 
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Disappointing results from malaria vaccine trial

Monday, 25 March 2013 13:40 by General
Everyone involved in malaria control has a fervent wish a malaria vaccine is found.
 
Recent results from an ongoing trial are therefore disappointing.
 
The trial’s report concludes: ‘The efficacy of RTS,S/AS01E vaccine over the 4-year period was 16.8%. Efficacy declined over time and with increasing malaria exposure.’
 
Reuters reports: ‘The disappointing results for RTS,S - the world's first potential malaria vaccine - raise further questions about whether it can make a difference in the fight against the disease, a major cause of illness and death among children in sub-Saharan Africa. "The results are kind of disappointing because we'd all like to see a malaria vaccine that has closer to 80 percent or 100 percent efficacy," said Christopher Plowe, a malaria researcher at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the United States, who was not involved in the RTS,S trial. There is currently no vaccine that offers complete protection against malaria. Control measures such as insecticide-treated bednets, indoor spraying and anti-malaria drugs have helped cut malaria cases and deaths significantly in recent years, but drug resistance is growing and experts say an effective vaccine could be a vital tool in eradicating the disease.’
 
 
 
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Malaria vaccine update - an additional comment

Monday, 12 November 2012 12:30 by RobMather
While recent field trial results for the potential malaria vaccine RTS,S may be disappointing, it is worth noting this is important work and the science may well prove an important contributor to the eventual development of a successful, cost-effective malaria vaccine. From an editorial in The New England Journal Of Medicine by Johanna Daily:
 
“The results of this trial suggest that this candidate malaria vaccine is not ready to become part of the routine panel of infant immunizations. [AMF added bold] However, this trial did show protection in a subset of children and thus should be used as an opportunity to enlighten researchers regarding the host responses that correlate with vaccine protection. There are many vaccine candidates in the pipeline that use alternative parasite targets and vaccination strategies. Whether leaders in malaria-vaccine development will be able to support the costs needed to integrate sophisticated host-response studies or other value-added studies into these future vaccine trials remains to be seen. The results of this immunization trial suggest that a malaria vaccine is possible, but a more detailed understanding of effective host responses will be necessary to achieve this goal and avert the illnesses and deaths associated with this devastating infection for millions of children."
 
We hope significant funding will be directed to vaccine research for the five malaria parasites. While it is the case, currently, there has never been an effective vaccine against a parasite, there is reason to believe scientific research will lead to one being developed. The impact of such a vaccine could be hugely significant.
 
 
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