Posts with «epidemic & plague» label

WHO approves the world's first malaria vaccine

In a landmark announcement today, the World Health Organization has recommended the use of the first-ever malaria vaccine. RTS,S, also known as Mosquirix. Specifically, the WHO says it should be deployed for children in sub-Saharan Africa and other areas where with moderate to high malaria transmission. The announcement follows in the footsteps of huge vaccine advancements around the COVID-19 pandemic. To be clear, though, RTS,S isn't an mRNA vaccine, which have the potential to make an even bigger impact on malaria and other diseases that have affected humans for ages.

“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. “Using this vaccine on top of existing  tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”

RTS,S has an efficacy rate of preventing 39 percent against malaria cases and 29 percent of severe cases, based on trials in Africa involving small children. That may seem particularly low, but when combined with other anti-malarial tools, like bed netting with insecticide, the WHO says the vaccine could potentially save tens of thousands of lives annually. The organization estimates that more than 260,000 African children die from malaria every year.

Crucially, the WHO also says RTS,S can be deployed easily, is safe to use and is cost effective to roll out. According to The Guardian, the company behind the vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), says it will supply up to 15 million doses annual at no more than 5 percent of the production cost. The WHO and GSK are looking for additional sources of funding from partners and governments. 

RTS,S is just the start, though. Thanks to mRNA-based technology, which can teach our bodies how to respond to specific diseases, Oxford University's R21 vaccine is up to 77 percent effective when it comes to preventing malaria. And based on tests so far, it's proven to be safe.     

"For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement. “Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults.”

Moderna enters clinical trials for its mRNA-based flu vaccine

Moderna has injected its mRNA-derived vaccine for the seasonal flu into a human volunteer for the first time as part of a Phase 1/2 clinical study, the company announced on Wednesday. 

This is a very early test for the new vaccine technology, geared primarily towards building a baseline understanding of the treatment's "safety, reactogenicity and immunogenicity," according to a Moderna release. mRNA-1010, as the vaccine has been dubbed, is designed to be effective against the four most common strains of the virus including, A H1N1, H3N2, influenza B Yamagata and influenza B Victoria. According to the World Health Organization, these strains cause between 3 and 5 million severe cases of flu every year, resulting in as many as 650,000 flu-related respiratory deaths annually. In the US alone, roughly 8 percent of the population comes down with the flu every winter. The company hopes this vaccine will prove more potent than the current 40 - 60 percent efficacy rate of conventional flu vaccines.  

“We are pleased to have begun this Phase 1/2 study of mRNA-1010, our first mRNA seasonal flu vaccine candidate to enter the clinic. We expect that our seasonal influenza vaccine candidates will be an important component of our future combination respiratory vaccines,” Stéphane Bancel, Moderna's CEO said. “Respiratory combination vaccines are an important pillar of our overall mRNA vaccine strategy. We believe that the advantages of mRNA vaccines include the ability to combine different antigens to protect against multiple viruses and the ability to rapidly respond to the evolution of respiratory viruses, such as influenza, SARS-CoV-2 and RSV. Our vision is to develop an mRNA combination vaccine so that people can get one shot each fall for high efficacy protection against the most problematic respiratory viruses."

This vaccine has been generated using the same genomic techniques the company utilized to develop its COVID-19 treatment in 2020. The technique works by exploiting the human body's own cells to reproduce snippets of viral DNA to instigate an immune response and prime the body against future infection. Since this method doesn't require the entire virus (either weakened or dead) but rather just a birt of its genetic code, mRNA vaccines could be applied to any number of deadly modern diseases including malaria, TB — even cancer.