World's first malaria vaccine could have 'significant impact' on population and economic growth - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 8 October

A malaria vaccine could be in widespread use within two years in what would be a world first after British drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) claimed that initial trials had shown the vaccine had cut the number of deaths among African children.


World's first malaria vaccine could have 'significant impact' on population and economic growth

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 8 October


Richard Vaughan

A malaria vaccine could be in widespread use within two years in what would be a world first after British drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) claimed that initial trials had shown the vaccine had cut the number of deaths among African children.

GSK made the announcement after the publication this morning of data from pilot schemes that showed impressive results. Leading experts even predicted a full vaccine could be in use by 2015.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that kills more than half a million people across the world every year. Scientists believe an effective vaccine is essential in the quest to eradicate it. Malaria has been one of the world's biggest scourges for millennia, with many arguing that it has held back economic growth in much of the developing world.

GSK said the vaccine, called RTS,S, had led to a drop of nearly 50 per cent in the number of cases among children in the trial, while the number of infants contracting the disease was cut by around a quarter.

GSK, which is working on the development of the drug with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, set up by the billionaire founder of Microsoft, has said the results from the pilot show the vaccine to be far from perfect, but said that it has still had a dramatic impact on survival rates.

The results come from a study of 15,000 children and babies from seven African countries. They showed that for every 1,000 children vaccinated, 21 cases of severe malaria were prevented. Eighteen months after a three-dose programme, children were 46 per cent less likely to suffer from the disease.

Halidou Tinto, one of the lead investigators in the study in Burkina Faso, said it could have a "significant impact". "Many millions of malaria cases fill the wards of our hospitals," Dr Tinto said. "Progress is being made with bed nets and other measures, but we need more tools to battle this terrible disease."

Vaccines work by injecting a person with a dead or dormant strain of the disease. This triggers an immune response from the body, and stimulates the production of antibodies. These antibodies can then be produced if and when the body is infected with the disease for real. Malaria itself is caused by protozoan parasites, which are passed via the bites of mosquitoes.

Should an effective vaccine be created, it would have a dramatic impact on the population of many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, which is the area of the world most blighted by the disease. Around 600,000 people are killed every year by malaria – mainly babies and small children – so any vaccine would significantly cut child mortality rates.

A successful vaccination programme in the developing world could have a significant impact on the potential for speeding up economic growth, experts have said.



Questions

1.) What are antibodies?
2.) Find out about a disease that has been eradicated in the UK through the use of vaccination.
3.) Besides vaccination, what other measures can we take to protect ourselves against the spread of disease?
4.) Why might malaria have "held back economic growth in much of the developing world"?


Related resources


Malaria: A global challenge

  • A booklet that looks at the history of the disease along with its causes, diagnosis, treatment and preventative strategies.

Malaria challenge

  • Explore the reality of a malaria outbreak with this lesson plan and web quest.

How do you stop the spread of malaria?

  • Follow this lesson plan with accompanying video clip to investigate how this disease can be controlled.

Introduction to vaccination

  • An explanatory PowerPoint presentation to show how and why we vaccinate against disease.

Further news resources


First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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