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New malaria vaccine gives boost to global health

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Malaria is one of the oldest diseases known to man, and is transmitted by the bite of female mosquitoes who transmit parasites known as plasmodium into the red blood cells of their victims. However the connection between bug bites and the disease was not officially recognized by medical science until 1889.

Characterized by symptoms including cycles of fever, chills, muscle aches, and headache that revolve every 1-3 days sufferers may also develop coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea as well as jaundice and eventual liver or kidney failure, while those with the cerebral malaria affecting the brain and nervous system suffer from seizures as well as coma leading to death.

In fact, WHO (the World Health Organization) estimates that nearly 400 million new cases are diagnoses annually, resulting in close to 2 million deaths. Most of these occur in children younger than 5-years old, living in sub-Saharan African countries.

Now, for the first time, scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have announced a breakthrough vaccine (PfSPZ) that can prevent the deadly disease.
"The global burden of malaria is extraordinary and unacceptable," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director at the Institute."Scientists and health care providers have made significant gains in characterizing, treating and preventing malaria; however, a vaccine has remained an elusive goal until now.”

The new vaccine is made up of live but weakened spores of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. During early clinical trials, Fauci reported that 40 out of 57 healthy volunteers ages 18 to 45 who never had malaria received the vaccine, in two to six doses low, and were monitored closely for seven days. The remaining volunteers did not receive any shots. The researchers found no severe side effects or malaria infections due to vaccinations.

After a period of three weeks, all the participants were exposed to bites from 5 mosquitoes carrying the same malaria strain of parasites used in the vaccine. Only three of the 15 people who got the higher doses of the vaccine became infected with the disease, while 16 of 17 who were given the lower dose contracted malaria, while 11 out of 12 patients who were not vaccinated at all came down with malaria.

"These trial results are a promising first step in generating high-level protection against malaria, and they allow for future studies to optimize the dose, schedule and delivery route of the candidate vaccine," said lead trial investigator Dr. Robert Seder, chief of cellular immunology at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center in Bethesda, Md. However, he noted that " an actual vaccine may still be years away.

Note: Other recent studies have found that mosquitoes infected with the Plasmodium falciparum parasite seem to be extremly attracted by certain strong human odors. For more information see diana’s article