A clinical trial for a malaria vaccine is yielding encouraging results and could have major positive implications for economic development in Africa, India, the America and South Pacific by ending the cycle of poverty that the disease propagates.
Scientists from Sanaria Inc., of Rockville, Maryland this week announced that a vaccine that was tested in collaboration with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and U.S. military triggered an immune response against a common form of the malaria parasite. The immunization prevented 12 out of 15 participants in the study from becoming infected after controlled exposure.
A vast majority of the control group that hadn't received any vaccination (11 out of 12) came down with malaria as well as a group that were administrated a smaller dosage (16 out of 17). The infected were treated with anti-malarial drugs and cured. The vaccine was delivered intravenously rather than into the skin or a muscle.
This is significant. I'm reminded of what Microsoft founder Bill Gates, a crusader against the disease, told a friend of mine when asked "why vaccines?" Gates replied along the lines of, "Because if someone isn't alive they have no potential."
Malaria kills between 490,000 to 836,000 people every year and there were 219 million malaria cases in 2010, according to World Health Organization data. The economic impact is enormous, and could arguably be labeled as an economic plague.
"Malaria has serious economic impacts in Africa, slowing economic growth and development and perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty. Malaria is truly a disease of poverty - afflicting primarily the poor who tend to live in malaria-prone rural areas in poorly-constructed dwellings that offer few, if any, barriers against mosquitoes," UNICEF says on a Web site dedicated to fighting against the disease.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the disease has direct costs of at least US$12bn per year. The effect on development is far greater, and as Mr. Gates observed, malaria has cost so many their human potential.
Image credits: CDC, Michigan.gov
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