Why malaria vaccines are not around the corner for travelers

The worldwide push to reduce malaria deaths, especially among children, has led to a recent breakthrough for one of the many vaccines in development.

Unfortunately for businesses and travelers, a malaria vaccine—perhaps similar to the one they receive for typhoid fever—will not be available any time soon. To protect a traveler who has built up no immunity, a vaccine must

  • Be effective at 60% or higher in preventing the disease
  • Have a short initial schedule of medication
  • Provide rapid onset of protection
  • Not interfere with any other pre-travel vaccines.

Further, this vaccine will have to be tested on the people for whom it’s intended. Mostly likely this testing will occur among military personnel, and indeed the American Army and Navy are working very hard to develop this type of vaccine.

For businesses sending their employees into malaria endemic areas, it is vital they continue to stress the existing behaviors required to avoid serious illness:

  1. Taking anti-malarial medication
  2. Protecting themselves from mosquito bites by using repellants and protective clothing
  3. Resting in environments with effective screens and/or bed nets
  4. Knowing the symptoms of malaria and getting immediate attention for them.

If you are interested in the technical details of vaccine development, we recommend the following article that requires free registration to read:

Medscape News Today: Malaria vaccines: A Toy for Travelers or a Tool for Eradication?: Is a Malaria Vaccine for Travelers Realistic? by Blaise Genton, Swiss Tropical Institute, Basel, Switzerland and Ifakara Health Research and Development Center

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Malaria: Not swatted yet | The Economist

More progress will be difficult. The existing tools of insecticide-treated bed nets and treatment drugs require careful co-ordination and good health systems. Eliminating malaria in a stable country is dramatically easier than doing so in a turbulent one. Worryingly, these tools may become less effective. Parasites in South-East Asia, for example, seem to be developing resistance to artemisinin-based treatments. To achieve eradication—or anything close to it—new weapons are needed.

via Malaria: Not swatted yet | The Economist.


Study Suggests Dormant Malaria Parasites in Red Blood Cells May Contribute to Treatment Failure

Researchers at the University of South Florida (USF) College of Public College Health have shown for the first time in a rodent model that the earliest form of malaria parasites can lay dormant in red blood cells and “wake up,” or recover, following treatment with the antimalarial drug artesunate.

The study, which appears today in the online journal PLoS ONE, suggests that this early-stage dormancy phenomenon contributes to the failure of artesunate alone, or even combined with other drugs, to eliminate the mosquito-borne disease.  Alexis LaCrue, PhD, research associate in the USF Department of Global Health, is the lead author of the study, which was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

via Study Suggests Dormant Malaria Parasites in Red Blood Cells May Contribute to Treatment Failure.


Chemical & Engineering News: Cover Story – Preventing Malaria

by Ann M. Thayer

Malaria, a disease that afflicts hundreds of millions of people and causes more than a million deaths per year, can be prevented. The simplest way is to avoid the bite of a parasite-bearing mosquito, but this strategy is generally impossible in endemic countries where mosquito assaults are fierce. Spraying insecticides and treating bed nets can go far in controlling the mosquito vectors and reducing disease transmission, but vaccines are considered by many to be a long-term solution to prevent infection and disease.

via Chemical & Engineering News: Cover Story – Preventing Malaria.


Dengue Susceptibility Linked To Two Genes

According to a study, two genetic variants that are linked with an increased susceptibility to severe dengue have been identified by investigators in South East Asia. The investigation provides insights into how the body responds to dengue, and was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR). The findings are published in the journal Nature Genetics.

via Dengue Susceptibility Linked To Two Genes.


Breakthrough malaria vaccine tantalizingly close – CNN.com

The vaccine is designed specifically for children because their immune systems are still developing, making them the easiest prey for the parasitic disease. Youngsters under the age of 5 account for the vast majority of the 800,000 people who die of the condition each year.

via Breakthrough malaria vaccine tantalizingly close – CNN.com.


Kindness: Charity, Philanthropy, & Social Responsibility – USATODAY.com

Take social media. Beginning with the Twitter Race to 1 million followers –which raised nearly 100,000 mosquito nets for Malaria No More–the malaria fight has consistently broken new ground in the use of social media. Only 28% of people in the US thought of malaria as a serious global health problem in 2006. Today, it’s more than 50%.

[Read USA TODAY’s coverage on the latest advance in malaria vaccine.]

The U.N. created a powerful group of social media advocates called the Social Media Envoys , each of whom take an action on Twitter each month.

And we’re seeing great promise using communications technologies in malaria endemic countries too.

Have you heard of the NightWatch campaign? It’s an amazing example of creative community outreach that Malaria No More partnered on with the Lalela Project: Using radio, television, and cellphones, the campaign sends a message every night at 9 p.m. reminding people to sleep under their mosquito nets, to prevent malaria. Piloted in Senegal last year, it recently expanded to Cameroon. In a partnership with Africa’s largest cellphone provider (MTN), the campaign reaches 4.6 million Cameroonians via SMS (text message), and Chad and Tanzania are getting on board as well.

As Malaria No More explains on their site:”Similar to the 1980s American public service announcement that asked parents: “It’s 10 p.m… do you know where your children are?” the NightWatch campaign asks families in Africa: “It’s 9 p.m… are you and your family safe under your mosquito nets tonight?”

via Kindness: Charity, Philanthropy, & Social Responsibility – USATODAY.com.