Malaria is a parasitic infection carried by the Anopheles mosquito. When an infected mosquito bites a human, the Plasmodium parasite enters the bloodstream and travels to the liver. There, it grows and multiplies. Five to 10 days later, the individual feels fatigued, spikes a fever and complains of headaches. The victim also often has nausea and vomiting. In severe cases, the patient becomes jaundiced, has seizures. They may even lapse into a coma or die.
The World Health Organization reported 210 million cases of malaria around the world in 2015. This infection claimed the lives of 438,000 victims. The majority of fatalities occurred in young children in Africa. However, recently the GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical company developed the first vaccine. It did so in the hopes of reducing the number of malaria-related deaths.
The British pharmaceutical company combined its efforts with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative to develop the inoculation serum. During five years of clinical trials, the vaccine was administered to 15,000 subjects in seven different countries. The serum proved effective in reducing the number of malaria cases by 40 percent. Now, 3 African countries have been chosen to further test the vaccination.
3 African Countries Selected for the First Malaria Vaccine Trial
Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi are the three countries chosen for the vaccine trial. Malaria rates among the population remain high despite the use of bed netting and insecticides. People are also using current medications and other preventative measures. The trial will involve inoculating 120,000 children from the ages of five to 17 months. Each child needs four injections administered over a particular time frame.
Researchers hope to determine the effectiveness of the malaria vaccine under real world scrutiny. They will also look to establish the feasibility of the four-dose delivery system in impoverished areas. Although the vaccine offers only partial protection against infection, Mosquirix, as it is called, has the potential to save thousands of lives when combined with other current measures.
The first malaria vaccine required decades of research and millions of dollars to arrive at this point. With continued research and breakthroughs, the World Health Organization hopes to eradicate malaria by 2040.
“The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine.” This was stated by Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Africa regional director.
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