Scientists edge closer to malaria vaccine
Written By: Abbie Smith
Scientists working on a vaccine for malaria are closer to finding a result that could revolutionise the fight against the illness.
The disease, which mainly affects young children, claims 750,000 lives a year and there are currently no vaccinations available for it.
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Experts who have developed the potential vaccine believe that they could cut that figure by a third, and they are hoping that if given the go ahead, the vaccine could be in use by 2015.
The vaccine, which is being referred to as RTS, is currently being tested and is in phase 3 of its trial, where scientists are looking into its effectiveness.
Professor David Schellenberg, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said the vaccine could “revolutionise malaria control.”
He says that the treatment “could have an absolutely massive effect”, as he estimates that it could be used in anywhere between 30-50 percent of patients.
“I think it's unlikely to be much more than that, but when you have a disease that's causing hundreds of millions of episodes, even a one-third reduction in this would be seriously useful.”
Although the initial findings have shown promising results, Professor Schellenberg has warned that there is still a lack of “robust information” on the possible vaccine and its ability to reduce the number of people contracting malaria or reduce the number of deaths from malaria.
Once the testing of the vaccine is complete, the information will be submitted to a health regulator who will decide whether or not to issue a licence for its production.
Malaria is a tropical disease which is commonly spread by mosquitoes that are already infected with the malaria parasite.
If bitten by an infected mosquito, the parasite is injected to someone’s blood. It can only take one bite to become infected with malaria, and although all types of malaria are dangerous, the most serious is the falciparum parasite.
Symptoms of malaria can show eight days after being bitten, although there have been cases where the parasite has been dormant in the body for up to a year before any symptoms have developed.
Common indicators of malaria include a high temperature, fever, headache, muscle pains and generally feeling unwell.
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”