WASHINGTON - Reports of the successful trials that could lead to the world's first malaria vaccine led the headlines of international news outlets this week. Hidden within the story line is the critical role of researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) who have worked steadfastly for more than 20 years to help bring the vaccine to reality.
"Congratulations are due to the many former and current WRAIR investigators who have helped to develop and test this vaccine over the last 20 years," said Col. Robert Paris, director of the U.S. Military Malaria Research Program at the WRAIR.
Results on the RTS,S phase III vaccine trial being conducted in Africa were presented at the 6th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria Pan-African Conference on Oct. 8, by Dr. Lucas Otieno, principal investigator at U.S. Army Medical Research Unit-Kenya (USAMRU-K). Dr. Otieno has been involved in the "The Walter Reed Project" trials since 2005 and works from the campus of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in Nairobi, Kenya.
The phase III study involved more than 15,000 children across 11 sites in seven African countries. The results demonstrated a 46 percent reduction in clinical malaria episodes among infants and children vaccinated at five to 17 months of age and 27 percent among infants vaccinated at six to 12 weeks.
According to the World Health Organization, malaria infected around 219 million people in 2010 and killed around 660,000 of them. Young children in Africa are most affected, with a child dying every minute from malaria.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year. Although initial results indicate positive outcomes over the short term, results over the long term suggest the effectiveness of the vaccine decreases over time. Ongoing research will explore whether a booster dose can increase protection over the long term (after 18 months) as well as other tools, such as the use of bed nets, to reduce risk.
The successful trials give hope that a malaria vaccine will be available by 2015, the same year in which Glaxo Smith Kline announced it will seek licensure with the European Medicines Agency, the European model of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The USAMRU-K Department of Emerging Infectious Diseases (DEID) is the Kenyan arm of the U.S. Department of Defense Global Emerging Infectious Surveillance and Response System (DoD-GEIS), a core component of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC). USAMRU-K is located in Nairobi, Kenya on the campus of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and is one of five U.S. DoD overseas research laboratories. Being part of the global DoD GEIS partnership, USAMRU-K DEID, promotes and facilitates national and international preparedness for emerging infections to protect the health of the public at large and US-DoD personnel.
For additional information, please visit:
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research: http://www.wrair.army.mil
USAMRU Kenya: http://www.usamrukenya.org/
USAMRU-K DEID: http://usamrukenya-deid.org/
Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) Path: http://www.malariavaccine.org/about-overview.php
Army Medicine: http://armymedicine.mil/Pages/Home.aspx
Medical Research and Materiel Command: https://mrmc.amedd.army.mil/