Malaria Vaccine GSK
The malaria vaccine (RTS, S), next to a syringe.

Malaria: Vaccine-drug Combination Reduces Cases, Deaths by 75% – Research

Results of clinical studies published yesterday, showed that vaccine-drug combination reduced clinical malaria episodes, including cases of severe malaria and deaths from malaria in young children by nearly two-thirds, compared with either RTS,S vaccination or seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) alone.

The final results of a landmark study published in the medical journal, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, confirmed that benefits of combining RTS,S/AS01E (RTS,S) malaria vaccine with antimalarial drugs in settings of highly seasonal malaria transmission continue over five years.

The phase three study, coordinated by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), with partners: Institut des Sciences et Techniques and Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé, Burkina Faso; the Malaria Research and Training Centre, University of Sciences, Techniques and Technologies of Bamako, Mali; and PATH, Seattle, Washington, United States of America (USA), followed more than 5,000 children over a total of five years.

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The study also confirmed that the efficacy of RTS,S in preventing malaria in highly seasonal settings was similar or “non-inferior” to that of SMC.

The findings from five years of follow-up are consistent with those from the first three years, which were published in 2021. Those findings contributed to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) decision, that year, to recommend RTS,S vaccine for use in settings of moderate-to-high malaria transmission, including its use in areas with highly seasonal malaria or in areas of perennial malaria transmission with seasonal peaks.

These new findings confirm the potential of seasonal vaccination to provide a high level of protection in young children over the first five years of life, a period when this protection is needed.

A member of the research team from LSHTM, Prof. Brian Greenwood, said: “In addition to the study’s findings, which by themselves are remarkable, we can say that children who received the RTS,S-drug combination and also used bed nets likely had greater than 90 per cent protection against malaria episodes during the study. This points to the importance of ensuring access to multiple malaria prevention tools for reducing the tremendous burden of malaria disease and death in these highly seasonal settings.”