BANGKOK (Reuters) - The world’s first trial of a dengue fever vaccine being developed by France’s Sanofi Pasteur and due for release in 2014 has seen “very promising” results in Thailand, a specialist involved in the tests said on Friday.
The mosquito-borne disease is a threat to nearly half of the world’s population. Of the estimated 220 million people infected each year, 2 million — mostly children in Latin America and Asia — develop a severe form called dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Initial results from the study in Thailand, one of 15 countries included in a wider clinical study program being undertaken by the vaccines division of Sanofi-Aventis, will not be announced until the end of next year.
The Thai trial, which began in 2009, involved 4,000 children and showed progress in its first two years, with none of the participants experiencing serious reactions to the vaccine produced by the unit of
“It’s very promising. The vaccine has been shown to be safe,” said Arunee Sabcharoen, emeritus professor of tropical pediatrics at Bangkok’s Mahidol University and the principal investigator in the Thai tests.
The four-year study was undertaken in Ratchaburi province, 100 km (60 miles) west of Bangkok, with the vaccine administered to children aged between four and 11 in three doses, six months apart.
“We observed the kids very closely,” said Arunee. “None of them have very serious reactions related to the vaccine.”
Rapid urbanization and the constant movement of people have contributed to dengue’s spread to new parts of the world.
Arunee said about 70,000 people were affected by dengue fever each year in Thailand, which spends about 250 million baht ($8.2 million) treating the disease and a further 800 million baht on mosquito control each year.
There is currently no cure or vaccine for dengue fever. Sanofi’s is the first to reach the final stage of development trials and the company said in 2009 it would spend 350 million euros ($480 million) building a site to produce some 100 million doses a year.
Sanofi’s head of its dengue vaccine program, Jean Lang, told Reuters three doses of the prophylactic, with perhaps some boosters at a later stage, would provide lifelong protection.
“Here our aim is to prevent dengue, to give it as part of the immunization program ... so that children are protected before large epidemics, that are occurring now regularly,” he said.
Editing by Martin Petty, Greg Mahlich