Malaria could be wiped out in just 10 years as British jabs may be the key to saving hundreds of thousands of lives

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Malaria could be wiped out within a decade, a top vaccinologist behind Oxford University’s revolutionary jab has predicted.

The disease, carried and transmitted by mosquitos, claims more than 600,000 lives each year across the world and progress to reduce deaths has stalled recently.

But the approval of two British jabs to prevent infection now means the ‘eradication of malaria could be feasible in 10 years’.

Professor Adrian Hill, director of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, said the new tools can be combined with traditional prevention methods including mosquito nets and antimalarial drugs.

‘I think it [eradication] is probably going to be in the mid-2030s, providing the funding is provided’ he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) annual conference in Denver.

The disease, carried and transmitted by mosquitos, claims more than 600,000 lives each year across the world and progress to reduce deaths has stalled recently (File Photo)

‘A lot is happening, it’s really exciting. I’ve been in this field for 35 years and it’s never been like this before.’

The first successful vaccine, GSK’s RTS,S jab, was given the green light for widespread use by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in July 2022, followed by Oxford University’s R21 vaccine in December 2023.

The world’s first routine malaria vaccinations took place in Cameroon last month, with ambitions to reach 6.6 million children across 20 African countries by 2025.

Professor Hill described how 114 years of research had led to the first jabs capable of priming the human immune system to resist the parasitic disease.

Oxford’s £3-a-dose vaccine is expected to be cheaper and easier to mass produce than GSK’s, with plans for at least 35 million doses this year and potential to scale up to 200 million annually.

However the WHO has said both vaccines can prevent around 75 per cent of malaria infections and there is no evidence that one is superior.

The UK is ‘incredibly strong on tropical medicines’ and ‘punching above our weight’ in the fight against malaria, the Irish vaccinologist said.

However, he warned that achieving elimination depends on adequate funding.

The approval of two British jabs to prevent infection now means the 'eradication of malaria could be feasible in 10 years'

The approval of two British jabs to prevent infection now means the ‘eradication of malaria could be feasible in 10 years’

Some countries have already seen impressive progress. Cases of malaria in China have plummeted from 30 million in 1970 and the country was declared malaria-free in 2017.

Professor Hill added that it was ‘something of a disgrace’ that more was not being done to stamp out the disease.

‘People keep thinking, ‘In Africa, babies die’,’ he said. ‘Yes they do but they’re not babies, they’re actually one and two year-olds, people with names who look you in the eye and were running around smiling the day before. It’s horrible to see.’

Mary Hamel, a malaria expert at the WHO, told the conference she was ‘less optimistic’ that elimination would be achieved in the 2030s with current interventions.

But she added: ‘I do think we’ll be improving on the tools we have. These were the first generation of malaria vaccines and already there are efforts to improve on them.

‘I do agree absolutely that more commitment and funding is needed for us to reach the goal of eradication.’

Oxford University

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