Malaria is a devastating disease that causes over 200 million human infections per year, resulting in almost half a million deaths per year. Malaria has successfully been controlled in the developed countries of the world, but remains a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the developing world.
The parasites that cause malaria are Plasmodium species and have evolved a complex life cycle that needs both a mosquito vector and an animal host to reproduce. Improved diagnostics and vector control have led to a decrease in the transmission of the disease but they alone cannot eradicate the disease.
Effective treatment for malaria exists, but drug resistance in the parasite is a continual battle. Many public health officials believe the only way to eradicate the disease is to have an effective vaccine. Many vaccine candidates have been proposed and have entered clinical trials.
The complex biology of the parasite, the stark differences between Plasmodium species that cause human disease, and the ability of the parasite to cause reinfections contribute to the difficult task in developing a vaccine.
To date, only one vaccine candidate, RTS,S, has gone through phase 3 clinical trials for efficacy and safety. The efficacy of this vaccine is very low and it has yet to be adapted in the countries in which malaria is endemic.
Both private and public sectors continue to search for more effective vaccines. The question remains is the Holy Grail of infectious disease prevention, the vaccine, attainable for malaria?
- Provide an overview of malaria pathogenicity and its burden worldwide
- Discuss challenges in control of malaria
- Discuss biology of parasite in context of making a vaccine
- Describe current vaccine candidates and issues with use
- Provide outlook on the future of a malaria vaccine