World’s first malaria vaccine may hold promise in battle against malaria

Posted: Monday, April 24, 2017. 6:49 p.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: After over 30 years of studies, the world’s first malaria vaccine is to be tested in Africa and may prove to be another weapon to fight this dreaded disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has hailed the vaccine, which is being pilot tested in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi next year, as having the potential to save thousands of lives.

The vaccine, which trains the immune system to attack the malaria vector which is spread by mosquitoes, needs to be administered four times: once a month for three months and then a fourth dose 18 months later. This treatment went smoothly in controlled clinical trials, but the WHO is not yet sure how it will perform in the real world.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, indicated that “the prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news” and emphasized that the pilot projects will be informative for the WHO, as it will guide the organization’s decisions on the wider use of the vaccine.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States, reported that there were over 214 million cases of malaria worldwide, with 438,000 fatalities due to malaria in 2015 alone. According to the WHO reports, the world mortality rate from malaria is on the decline, and was reduced by 29% since 2010 due to increased prevention and control measures.

At the Malaria Day celebration in 2016, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that Belize was on target to meet its regional commitments to achieve a 99 percent reduction in Malaria cases.  The MOH added that in Belize, only nine (9) people contracted Malaria locally, in 2015.

In Belize, malaria cases peaked at over 9,400 cases in 1995 but the Ministry of Health reports a high success rate with its malaria intervention efforts. Due to growing reports of resistance to antimalarial drugs developing particularly in Southeast Asia, and the threat of mosquito resistance to commonly used insecticides, Belize may be well advised to keep tracking the outcome of these wider malaria vaccine trials.

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