Monday Article #1 : A SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGH : WHO has approved the 1st ever malaria vaccine!

- A solution to Malaria long in the making is finally here!-

Kindly enjoy reading the article until the very end for a surprise! :D

Malaria has long affected our world, dating back all the way to the 1800s when the infamous infectious disease was first detected in Constantine (Algeria). Malaria is caused by the pathogen Plasmodium, which is a member of the Kingdom Protista. There are 4 known variants of the pathogen Plasmodium ; P. malariae , P.vivax, P.ovale and the most deadly variant,P.falciparum.

Malaria, unlike other transmissible diseases ,is transmitted through an animal vector, specifically ,via a female Anopheles mosquito. Mosquitoes often favour warm climates, which explains why the Malaria disease mostly affects continents with warmer climates and it is the primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa where more than 260,000 children under the age of 5 die annually. This shows that although it is not transmitted by human contact,Malaria has proved to be a deadly disease.

There are many symptoms of malaria in which the most common symptoms are : fever, chills and aching. Malaria often has symptoms which are similar to the common flu. As a result, it may be difficult to diagnose a person by just simply observing these symptoms. A blood test from the patient would be required to confirm whether he/she is affected with Malaria or not.

Since Malaria is spread by mosquitoes, the Plasmodium parasite enters the human body via the bloodstream when the mosquito takes a blood meal and during the blood meal, an undeveloped version of the parasite known as “sporozoites’ are released into the bloodstream. These ‘sporozoites’ will infect the liver cells in humans and soon give rise to the aforementioned symptoms!

For many years, scientists have been racing to develop a vaccine for Malaria in hopes of successfully eradicating this disease but it was a daunting task as the Plasmodium pathogen

changes its cell-surface antigens throughout its life cycle. However, just recently, on the 6th of October 2021, WHO announced the first-ever approved Malaria vaccine,RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S). WHO Director-General Dr Tedros commented “This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” He also stated “Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”

The vaccine will undoubtedly help save many lives in sub-Saharan Africa as the vaccine has high impact and is very cost-effective. Hence, sub-Saharan Africa regions are able to administer the vaccine at a low cost. We are still very far from eradicating Malaria but every small step counts. Simple prevention steps such as using bed-nets and insecticides have been proven useful. It is also our responsibility to dispose of any stale water to limit mosquito breeding. The global community should play our part and one day, we might be able to successfully eradicate Malaria as we did previously for smallpox.

Glossary :

Malaria - disease caused by the pathogen with genus Plasmodium from Kingdom Protista and is transmitted by a mosquito vector.

Female Anopheles mosquito - the animal vector for malaria, Anopheles is the genus of this particular mosquito. Only female mosquitoes can transmit malaria as it is them who take blood meals from humans for egg production.

RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S - the Malaria vaccine

REFERENCE(s) / Further reading :D :

  • WHO 1st ever Malaria vaccine article

  • Malaria Disease Wikipedia Information

THIS "HOT TOPIC" ARTICLE WAS PREPARED BY : Eldrian Tho Jiat Yang (E.T) (he/him)

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