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Humans

Hope to fight Malaria

May 17th, 2017
in:Humans
by:Cherotich Kenei
located in:Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Tanzania, Burkina Faso
tags:malaria, World Health Organisation (WHO)

Africa bears the greatest burden when it comes to malaria. Though initiatives have been put in place to curb the spread of this disease, more has been desired by both governments and populations to end the vicious infection cycle.

In the years between 2000 and 2015, preventative measures coupled with a good medical response reduced the infection rate of malaria by sixty-two per cent. Yet, 429,000 people still succumbed to the disease in 2015.

It thus comes as good news that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has given a green light for the use of RTS (trade named Mosquirix) in the fight against malaria. This vaccine first created in 1987 by scientists at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) aims at mitigating the parasite Plasmodium falciparum from infecting the liver after which it re-enters the bloodstream and infects red blood cells, leading to malaria.

Initial controlled clinical trials carried out in seven African countries including Kenya, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, have yielded positive results leading to the approval of the drug for large scale testing. This was achieved through public – private partnership between GSK, Path’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and shall be undertaken in a period of four years, from 2017 to 2021.

Mosquirix will be administered on an estimated seven hundred and twenty thousand children aged 17 months to five years living in malaria endemic sub – Saharan regions. Kenya, Malawi and Ghana are the first African countries chosen to spearhead this campaign as of 2018.

According to Dr Pedro Alonso, Director WHO Global Malaria Programme, the three countries were selected for they had well-functioning government led malaria control and immunisation measures.

The vaccine a first of its kind will be dispensed in national immunisation programmes through intramuscular injection, four times; once, three times a month and after eighteen months; and although efficacy has been attained in controlled trials, it remains unclear whether the same can be achieved in an broader platform such as the health care system that often proves erratic. Moreover, questions have risen after researchers observed Mosquirix had a weakened effect, carrying only a four per cent success rate over a seven-year period. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa stated, the organisation will continue to work with the three countries to facilitate regulatory authorisation of the vaccine for use in the pilots through the African Vaccine Regulatory Forum (Avaref). This union born of the need to ensure that the pilot is a success in hopes of ending this vicious cycle that has robbed Africa of her helpless young.

Worthy to note is, though the pilot program shall be largely based on monitoring the impact of the vaccine, its will also be a platform for all parties associated to measure healthcare systems approach to the vaccine and their ability to include the vaccination in the national budgets.

In Kenya however, there is a gloomy atmosphere, malaria cases within the country have risen and although the government through the Ministry of Health has allayed any fears of an outbreak, it has become clearer than ever that a

lasting solution must be found. This all attributed to the fact that critical gaps still remain within the prevention stage. For instance, in sub- Saharan Africa where forty-three per cent of the people at risk of malaria, preventive methods such as the use of a treated mosquito net or indoor insecticide spraying were not being practised.

Despite this, the vision for a malaria free Kenya isn’t too far fetched given the situation at hand. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has gotten Kenyan scientists excited and risen hopes to an all-time high after creating a malaria testing kit that detects the disease in patients prior the onset of any symptoms.

This new invention is a molecular-based field laboratory deployed Illumigene malaria and it is more sensitive at detecting the parasite than current tests. In November CDC and the University of Dakar reported that Illumigene compared well in poor field conditions. Thus meaning that the kit can be used in poor, rural villages and is able to bring early diagnosis enabling proper treatment to reach the intended patients leading to a vital fight against malaria.

For now, the kit is not yet ready for public use and although the Mosquirix vaccine is at the large – scale testing phase their discoveries bring much-needed hope to a continent that has faced the burden of malaria. Hopefully, now, Africa’s young generation can look up past the age of five and dream of becoming the development future for the continent.

Article written by:
Cherotich Kenei
Author
Current Map: Our coverage
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has given a green light for the use of RTS, S (trade named Mosquirix) in the fight against malaria.
The vaccine a first of its kind will be dispensed in national immunisation programmes through intramuscular injection.
For now, the kit is not yet ready for public use and although the Mosquirix vaccine is at the large – scale testing phase their discoveries bring much-needed hope to a continent that has faced the burden of malaria.

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