Depending on where you live, you may not think too much about malaria. And that's a ridiculous luxury, considering that every 30 seconds a child dies from the infectious disease, according to the World Health Organization. Despite favored interventions such as using bed nets treated with insecticides, spraying the inside of dwellings, getting rid of standing water and, of course, drug treatments, about 250 million people get sick and 1 million people die every year from malaria, reports the WHO.
Given those numbers, it's hard not to be interested when a malaria vaccine apparently shows promise -- even if it is years away from reaching the people who need it. The candidate in question is RTS,S, a vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, working with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, an organization funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (You know, the same foundation that gives money to people for things like figuring out how to detect tuberculosis with an electronic nose.)
The vaccine just entered Phase III testing, having shown in Phase II that it reduced clinical episodes of malaria by 53 percent, according to the related press release. The efficacy trial aims to enroll 16,000 children in seven different African countries. If the enormous undertaking goes well and the candidate proves safe and effective, the vaccine could be available in the next three to five years. And that would be welcome news, considering that about three kids just died from the disease in the time it took you to read this post.