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26 April 2012

Gabon says antimalarial drug within reach

A scientist at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital's medical research unit has said that trials of a new antimalarial drug were encouraging and paved the way for licensing.

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A scientist at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital's medical research unit said that trials of a new antimalarial drug were encouraging and paved the way for licencing.

"These preliminary results are relatively encouraging and lead us to believe... that we could have something licenced," Dr Jose Fernandez said in Libreville at an event marking World Malaria Day.

He said the drug had been in the final of three clinical trial phases for the past two years at the research centre in Lambarene, the Gabon jungle town where Nobel Peace Prize winner Schweitzer founded the hospital 99 years ago.

The RTS,S/AS01E vaccine is manufactured by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and the research – which is led by the University of Tubingen – is being financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Malaria top health problem

Fernandez said the vaccine had achieved 56% protection from malaria and 46% against severe malaria.

While global campaigning and wide distributions of mosquito nets have helped curb malaria, it is still regarded as the worst parasitic disease in the world.

The World Health Organisation says 655,000 people died of malaria in 2010, making the mosquito-borne disease the world's fifth biggest killer in low-income countries.

Speaking at the same event in Libreville, Gabonese Health Minister Leon Nzouba described malaria as his country's top public health problem.

Schweitzer, who was born a German and later became French, was also a respected philosopher, organist, musicologist and theologian. He died in the hospital he founded in 1965 at the age of 90.

(Sapa, April 2012) 

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