Malaria is still leading the list of killer diseases in Africa. Two million children die annually from this disease primarily due to infection with Plasmodium falciparum. Currently, malaria control strategies are chiefly based on the early diagnosis and treatment of infected individuals. While preventive measures such as vector control and insecticide treated bednets remain indispensable, a vaccine is viewed as an essential part of the long-term strategy to control malaria, especially in Africa, where ninety per cent of all deaths due to malaria occur.
More than 50 candidate vaccines are currently under development. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Biologicals has developed in collaboration with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research an adjuvanted candidate malaria vaccine, based on the RTS, S antigen. Since 2001, trials of this vaccine in children have been conducted under a partnership agreement between GSK and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI). The goal of this partnership is to develop the vaccine for the routine immunization of infants and children living in malaria endemic regions of Africa.