One of the greatest achievements in modern medicine has been the implementation of a variety of vaccines that have helped to save millions of children across the world from either death or possible life-altering afflictions associated with disease.
According to the World Health Organization, WHO, over 212 million people were infected with Malaria in 2015, and of those infected, over 400,000 people died as a result. Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that can affect both animals and humans.
Malaria, like other disease spread by mosquitoes such as Zika virus and Yellow Fever, can spread rapidly in a population, especially in the tropical and subtropical climates around the equator.
The microorganism that causes the disease is a type of parasitic protozoan, that is a unicellular eukaryote.
The main target for the disease is the liver. Once the liver becomes infected, the organism continues to reproduce and causes a variety of symptoms.
Malaria causes flu like symptoms such as headache, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. While current antimalarial drugs can be taken to decrease the chances of infection, they do not provide immunity to the disease. Recently, there has been a breakthrough in the development of a vaccine against malaria.
A vaccine, PfSPZ, is designed to give the receiver immunity to a particular disease of interest. There are several methods of vaccination including parenteral or oral administration, and the method used to incite an immune response from the host.
Some vaccines, such as the chicken pox vaccine, use inactivated virus to elicit an immune response. Others, such as hepatitis B or the meningitis vaccine, use parts of virus, such as their DNA or a specific protein, to cause an immune response from the host.
The malaria vaccine that is currently receiving attention uses a live, fully active pathogen. That is, they do not change the pathogen at all prior to giving the vaccine to patients. In order to prevent infection the patient is given chloroquine, a known antimalarial drug.
The vaccine works because chloroquine can only kill the pathogen once it has entered the blood stream, not when it is reproducing in the liver. The pathogen replicates in the liver, causing an immune response. The chloroquine prevents infection of the rest of the host, but still allows the immune system to develop antibodies against the pathogen.
In the most recent reports, the vaccine has been 100 percent effective against the disease when the vaccine was given in its highest dosage.
In the cases reported by the article “Sterile protection against human malaria by chemo-attenuated PfSPZ vaccine” there was no infection reported after three treatments with the vaccine spaced four weeks apart.
The WHO ranks Malaria as one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases. As stated previously, over 400,000 deaths occur each year as a result of Malaria infections, nearly three-fourths of the deceased are children under the age of five.
An effective vaccine would change the lives of millions of people affected across the world. The success of this vaccine gives hope of a better future to those most impacted by the disease.