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World’s first Malaria Vaccine

World’s first Malaria Vaccine

Tag: GS 3 || Science & Technology || Health & Medicine || Diseases

Why in news?

  • Malawi will be undertaking large scale pilot tests for the world’s most advanced experimental malaria vaccine in a bid to prevent the disease.
  • The vaccine has been recommended by WHO for pilot introduction in selected areas of 3 African countries – Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Malaria

  • Parasitic disease: Malaria is a potentially life-threatening parasitic disease caused by the parasites Plasmodium viviax (P.vivax), Plasmodium falciparum (P.falciparum), Plasmodium malariae (P.malariae), and Plasmodium ovale (P.ovale), transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito.

RTS,S vaccine

  • Trigger immune system: According to a description from PATH’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), RTS,S aims to trigger the immune system to defend against the first stages of malaria when the Plasmodium falciparum parasite enters the human host’s bloodstream through a mosquito bite and infects liver cells.
    • The vaccine is designed to prevent the parasite from infecting the liver, where it can mature, multiply, re-enter the bloodstream, and infect red blood cells, which can lead to disease symptoms.
  • Developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK): The vaccine has been developed by GSK — the company is donating about 10 million doses of the product for the pilot.
    • It was created in 1987 by GSK, and was subsequently developed with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
    • In 2014, the vaccine cleared phase III clinical trials which certified that it was both effective and safe for use in humans.

Pilot programme

  • The World Health Organisation issued a statement welcoming a pilot project in Malawi of administering a malaria vaccine to children below the age of 2 years.
  • Selected countries: A total 3,60,000 children across three African countries — Malawi, Ghana and Kenya — will be covered every year with the vaccine.
  • WHO will review results: Once the pilots have been completed, the WHO will review the results and come out with its recommendations for the use of the vaccine.

Significance

  • World’s leading killer: Malaria, according to the WHO, remains one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes.
  • Most of these deaths are in Africa, where more than 2,50,000 children die from the disease every year.
  • Children under the age of 5 are at greatest risk from its life-threatening complications.
  • The vaccine has taken three decades to come to fruition, and is the first one ever against a disease that kills 4,35,000 people a year, most of them children.
    • India ranks high in the list of countries worst affected by the mosquito-borne disease.

India

  • Serious malaria burden: India ranks very high in the list of countries with a serious malaria burden.
    • In 2018, 3,99,134 cases of malaria and 85 deaths due to the disease were reported in the country, according to data from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.
  • Six states — Odisha (40%), Chhattisgarh (20%), Jharkhand (20%), Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and Mizoram (5-7%) — bear the brunt of malaria in India.
    • These states, along with the tribal areas of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, account for 90% of India’s malaria burden.
  • Questions are repeatedly asked about the veracity of the Indian data, with some reports suggesting India may be recording just 8% of the actual number of malaria cases.
    • Between 60% and 80% of patients in the urban areas are treated by private doctors or health establishments, most of whom do not notify cases.
    • Although malaria is a notifiable disease, it is only voluntary notification — there are no penalties for doctors or hospitals not doing so. However, there is, of late, renewed focus on case reporting.

Additional info

PATH

  • PATH is an international nonprofit team of innovators which advises and partners with public institutions, businesses, grassroots groups, and investors to tackle the world’s toughest global health problems, including malaria.
  • PATH’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) works with various stakeholders towards the development of a malaria vaccine.

Mains question

  • Examine the status of malaria in India. What is your assessment of the potential of Mosquirix – world’s first malarial vaccine in this regard?