The world’s first malaria vaccine has received a green light
from European drugs regulators who recommended it
should be licensed for use in babies in Africa who are at risk
of the mosquito-borne disease.
The shot, called RTS,S or Mosquirix, would be the first
licensed human vaccine against a parasitic disease and
could help prevent millions of cases of malaria in countries
that use it.
The vaccine was developed by British drugmaker
GlaxoSmithKline in partnership with the PATH Malaria
Recommendations for a drug licence made by the European
Medicines Agency are normally endorsed by the European
Commission within a couple of months.
Mosquirix, also part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation, will also now be assessed by the World Health
Organisation, which has promised to give its guidance on
when and where it should be used before the end of this
Malaria killed an estimated 584,000 people in 2013, the vast
majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
More than 80 percent of malaria deaths are in children
under the age of five.
Andrew Witty, GSK’s chief executive, said EMA’s positive
recommendation was a further important step towards
making the world’s first malaria vaccine available for young
“While RTS,S on its own is not the complete answer to
malaria, its use alongside those interventions currently
available such as bed nets and insecticides would provide a
very meaningful contribution to controlling the impact of
malaria on children in those African communities that need
it the most,” he said in a statement.
One of the patients, lets call him Billy, had
been in the ward for the last few weeks, and was
receiving chemotherapy for a rare type of cancer that
had started in his tummy, but spread out across his
body. The subsequent scans had suggested that this
treatment was being very effective in controlling the
cancer, and it was all shrinking, but overnight the
night team had noticed that one of his pupils had
become fixed and dilated (a blown pupil).
Blown pupil seen here in the patient’s left eye
This raised a lot of worries, most importantly the
worry that the cancer had spread to the brain, and
was growing there, affecting the nerves coming out of
the brain by pressing on them and creating this
symptom. The night team had arranged a whole host
of brain scans and investigations to be carried out
this day to find out what was happening. One of the
paediatric consultants, who always dresses pretty
shambolically and behaves a little like a crazed
professor started asking the night team questions
“Is the patient on hyoscine for the chemotherapy?”
Yes he is, they answered, he has a patch on at the
“Where is this patch, is it on his neck perchance?”
Why yes, its on the left of his neck, a bit above the
“Well that is the answer, then. Hyoscine is an
antimuscarinic, and the drug is passing through the
skin into the blood vessels which then feed into the
eye, dilating the pupil. Change the position of the
And hey-presto, the patch position was changed to
the other side of the neck, and the eye slowly went
back to normal. A lot of stress for Billy and his
parents avoided, and a lot of expensive (and
radiation-filled) scans avoided. A simple diagnosis
made without any fancy hospital tests, just a brain.
That is the way medicine should be done!