When Pedro Alonso began studying medicine at the Autonomous University of Madrid, he did not imagine that his role would be key years later, in the news that the World Health Organization (WHO) has made public this week: the approval for the first time in The history of the widespread use of a vaccine against malaria. Bearing in mind that two decades ago, "an important part of the scientific community believed that it was impossible to develop a vaccine against this disease, with RTS, S / AS01 or MOSQUIRIX [This is known immunization, developed by the GSK Pharmaceutical Company] We have Given a gigantic step, "said the Spanish researcher to this newspaper when WHO appointed him Director of the World Malaria Program of the Institution.
At that time, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) had submitted to registration with the European Medicine Agency its candidate for vaccine against malaria. We use "their" because everything began about four decades ago, when Alonso traveled to Gambia to work as a general physician and found that "what they face there, fundamentally, is to malaria." It was then when he decided to start his research line on malaria. A whole challenge 40 years ago and now, it can be said that a milestone in the history of medicine.
First, he demonstrated the efficiency of the use of mosquito nets impregnated with insecticide for the prevention of this disease. It was his first article, published in the prestigious magazine 'The Lancet'. Years later, he created the Manhiça Health Research Center (CISM), with the support of the Barcelona Clinical Hospital and funds from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the Ministry of Health of the country. This is precisely one of the reasons that make Alonso feel the most satisfaction: "I am proud of having contributed to found one of the reference centers in Africa (in Manhiça, Mozambique) and have turned Barcelona into one of the nodes of Global Global Excellence ".
Later, between 2001 and 2007, the first studies in children were developed to test this vaccine that began to take their first steps. It was extended to other countries to confirm the results until it leads to the Mozambique project, which received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in 2008.
Malaria remains one of the main causes of disease and child death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260,000 African children under five years old die annually from malaria.
Prior to WHO's announcement for widespread use, RTS, S / AS01 has been used as part of a pilot program in Ghana, Kenya or Malawi, where more than 800,000 children have been vaccinated from 2019. "This is a moment Historic. The long-awaited vaccine against malaria for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control, "the Director General of the WHO, Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS. Along with other existing tools such as mosquito nets and insecticides, it will help prevent the disease and it is expected to save "thousands of young lives every year," added ADhanom.
Pedro Alonso has always explained that, "unlike other diseases (such as polio or smallpox) in which a vaccine resolved the problem, malaria is much more complicated and we need the sum of multiple strategies. The vaccine is part of A package of interventions to accelerate progress. "
Based on the advice of two global advisory WHO, one for immunization and another for malaria, it has been recommended that this vaccine be used for the prevention of malaria by 'P. Falciparum 'in children living in regions with a moderate to high transmission. The vaccine should be administered in a four-dose scheme in children from five months of age for the reduction of illness and loading malaria.
The data from the pilot program showed a reduction of 30% of the fatal malaria, "even when it is introduced into areas where insecticide-treated mosquito nets are widely used and there is good access to diagnosis and treatment," explains WHO. Likewise, the results indicate that more than two thirds of the children of the three countries that do not sleep under a mosquito net benefited from the vaccine.Updated Date: 09 October 2021, 20:06