Malaria being a vector-borne disease and the Plasmodium parasite completes its life cycle in different parts of the human body.
WHO has given the nod for the first malaria vaccine. The Mosquirix vaccine has just cleared its clinical development process and got the recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). However, the vaccine is only 30% effective against the most dangerous strain of Malaria, Plasmodium falciparum. The vaccine is effective in bringing down the incidence and mortality in severe cases of Falciparum induced malaria.
Why did it take so long to perfect a Malaria vaccine?
Malaria continues to exact a heavy toll and according to WHO data kills 4.0 lakh persons every year. Malaria being a vector-borne disease and the Plasmodium parasite completes its life cycle in different parts of the human body makes it difficult to be identified by the body’s immune system makes the task of making a malaria vaccine even more difficult.
The Plasmodium which is a protozoan has a very complex life cycle that includes a part in the vector, Mosquito, in different parts of the human body which includes the liver, spleen. It can hide in the RBC of the blood and this makes it beyond the immune system of the body.
Vaccines are prepared from dead or weakened pathogens which helps the immune system to make antibodies that can kill the pathogens. Since the Plasmodium hides inside the blood cells, makes it difficult to destroy.
Another factor that has impaired the development of a vaccine is the lack of interest among the pharmacy behemoths who will not invest in research unless they are assured of a hefty profit. Malaria is a disease prevalent in the third world and poor countries. Therefore the development of a vaccine is commercially not profitable for these pharma companies.
3 African countries have approved the vaccine
The Mosquirix vaccine has been approved by the national ministries of health of three different countries in Africa. 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have benefited from the Mosquirix vaccine as a part of a pilot project.
Malaria still remains a scourge for third world countries. Children under the age of 5 are most vulnerable to malaria and account for 67% of all malaria deaths worldwide. The malaria incidence in India has fallen and in 2020 to 5.6 million cases of malaria compared to about 20 million cases in 2020, according to WHO.
The world has eliminated Small Pox and Polio from a major part of the globe except for Pakistan and Afghanistan which has still not eradicated polio. The world is gearing to eradicate malaria and if any country reports Zero malaria incidence for three years in a row, it will be declared Malaria Free by WHO.
11 countries have achieved this landmark and it includes U.A.E, Sri Lanka. 27 countries have reported less than 100 cases of the disease and the list is rising. The future looks promising and we can see the eradication of Malaria in the coming years.