Feb. 10, 2010, 10:32 a.m.
18 January 2010
Maputo — The Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance (MCTA), which was due to end in 2009, may be extended for a further period to allow consolidation of the results achieved over the past four years in 12 African countries where research centres are working on a vaccine against malaria.
Speaking in Maputo on Monday, at the opening of the MCTA annual meeting, the chair of the MCTA board of management, former Mozambican Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, said "The tools we now possess, if used appropriately, could help control and eradicate malaria".
In Mozambique and eight other countries, the third phase of studies into a malaria vaccine is under way. Those studies began in May 2009, and have led to hopes that vaccine will be on the market in five or six years.
In Mozambique, there are two stages to the vaccine test. The first involves a sample of 1,000 babies between six and 12 weeks old, while the second group consists of 700 infants aged between five and 17 months.
The inoculations are given at the Malavele Health Centre in Manhica district, about 80 kilometres north of Maputo, coordinated by scientists from the Manhica Health Research Centre, who are trying to ascertain the effectiveness of the most advanced candidate vaccine, known as RTS,S.
Results from 2007 indicate that this candidate vaccine is 65 per cent effective in new born children.
MCTA is a project of the "INDEPTH-Network", which is an international organisation for the demographic evaluation of populations and their health in developing countries.
Seth Agyei, Chairperson of the Council of Sponsors of INDEPTH and director of the Ghanaian Health Research Centre, told reporters he was optimistic that the third phase of the research would indeed lead to the first ever vaccine against malaria, and that this would drastically reduce the burden that malaria lays on poor countries.
Fred Binka, the MCTA project manager, was also very satisfied with the results so far. "At this meeting", he said, "we have a proposal under analysis, which is a follow-up of the phase that is about to finish, so that we can consolidate all the work undertaken so far. We believe that the discussiopns at the annual meeting will allow us to reach an agreement about the common targets that will determine the time interval for the new phase of the MCTA".