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New hope for malaria vaccine

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life

 

Source: Indian Express

Context: The World Health Organization’s (WHO) recently approved RTS, S/AS01 (Mosquirix) developed by GlaxoSmithKline for immunising children against malaria was a big milestone after decades of gradual progress.

 

About Malaria disease:

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that affects humans and other animals. It is caused by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito if the mosquito itself is infected with a malarial parasite.

There are five kinds of malarial parasites out of which Plasmodium falciparum (parasite is responsible for 70% of cases in India), and Plasmodium vivax (globally, the commonest ones).

 

Need to develop vaccine:

  • According to the WHO’s World Malaria Report 2021
    • Globally, there were an estimated 241 million malaria cases in 2020 in 85 malaria-endemic countries.
    • India contributed 1.7% of malaria cases and 1.2% of deaths globally.
    • Most of this increase came from countries in the WHO Africa Region, which accounted for 95% of cases.
    • Malaria deaths increased by 12% globally in 2020 compared with 2019, the majority of whom are children under the age of five.
  • Given the parasite’s very complex life cycle that correlates with protective immunity has been difficult.

 

About the RTS,S/AS01 (Mosquirix) vaccine:

 Decoding the name of the vaccine:

  • It is named RTS because it was engineered using genes (repeat (‘R’) and T-cell) of the protein of the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite together with a viral surface antigen (‘S’) of the hepatitis B virus (HBsAg).
  • This protein was then mixed with additional HBsAg to improve purification, hence the extra “S”.
  • To boost immune responses, all protein-based recombinant vaccines rely heavily on a strong adjuvant (help vaccines work better). RTS, S is formulated with an adjuvant called AS01 developed at GSK.

 

Case of India – Why hasn’t India been more successful in developing such vaccines?

  • Though basic malaria research has been robust in India, there is a significant gap in the establishment of safe and scientifically robust control human infection models for diseases such as malaria or influenza.

 

What is required:

  • With a highly successful and devoted vaccine-producing biopharma industry, India should be able to lead the world in vaccine development and production.
  • To aid scientists in the development of novel vaccines against infectious diseases, long-term continuous funding, and regulatory and logistic processes must be better coordinated.

 

Note:

  • The WHO’s own benchmark for malaria vaccine efficacy is 75%.
  • Another malaria vaccine, R21/Matrix M, developed by the University of Oxford in the UK, demonstrated an efficacy of 77% in phase 1 and 2 trials among 450 children in Burkina Faso.

 

Insta Links:

RSTV: IN-DEPTH- MALARIA VACCINE

 

Mains Link:

What is Mosquirix, the first malaria vaccine to get the WHO’s backing?