Mosquitos are ugly creatures. They buzz, bite, and bother you, but more than just being annoying, they harbor parasites that transmit malaria. A person infected by one of these parasites via a mosquito bite can experience fever, chills, vomiting, and sometimes even death.
The World Health Organization predicts that almost 3.2 billion people — that’s half the world’s population — are at risk of catching this disease, and among those at risk, 214 million people were infected in 2015. Of those infected with malaria, at least 438,000 people passed away.
While global efforts have successfully reduced the incidences of malaria by 60 percent since 2000, researchers may have just found a way to take that progress even further thanks to a new malaria vaccine.
A malaria vaccine has been particularly elusive in the medical community because malaria originates from a parasite and not a virus. Therefore, a live but weakened form of the parasite that infects humans was used in the creation of this new investigational vaccine, Sanaria® PfSPZ. The weakened sporozoites parasite was developed by Sanaria Inc. through a clinical study conducted by researchers from the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases (NIAID) division and the University of Bamako in Bamako, Mali.
The vaccine has shown to be 100 percent effective in U.S. clinical trials and 48 percent effective in those run in Mali. A principal investigator on the Mali trial, Dr. Sara Healy M.D., M.P.H., has noted that “this level of sustained efficacy against malaria infection in a region with an intense transmission season has not been seen in previous malaria vaccine studies in Africa,” establishing a positive outlook for the newly crafted vaccine.
Sanaria’s isn’t the only malaria vaccine in development. GSK’s malaria candidate vaccine, Mosquirix™, is expected to roll out to the public in 2018. While it’s not expected to be as successful as PfSPZ, it is further ahead in development as PfSPZ has only just cleared Phase II clinical trials. Until recently, we had no true preventative measures against malaria, and now we just may have more than enough.