Sunday, 6 January 2008

Vaccine to prevent malaria


January 5, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Jan 4: Vaccine to prevent malaria, one of the most dreaded diseases afflicting human beings, will be available in the market for commercial use in the next couple of years.
Eminent biotechnologist Dr Dronamraju Krishna Rao, who has done considerable research on malaria and its causative agent Plasmodium, told this correspondent on the sidelines of the ongoing 95th Indian Science Congress here that the malaria vaccine had been found to be affective in laboratory tests and it would take some more time for the vaccine to be available for general administration.
To begin with malaria vaccine will be available to tackle the health menace caused by two of the four Plasmodium species that cause malaria. "Work is going on briskly for vaccination against Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. Together they are responsible for 90 per cent of malarial cases around the world. Vaccine will also differ from region to region to suit the malarial strains," he said.
Vaccine to prevent the spread of malaria has been on cards for quite long and now it is becoming a reality. Malaria is responsible for the death of almost a quarter of humanity since the advent of man and it still leads to death in Africa and several poor countries. It kills more people than any other communicable disease except tuberculosis. Malaria continues to be a public health problem in more than 90 countries including India and at risk are almost half of the humanity. Almost 50 crore people develop malaria every year.
Dr Krishna Rao says an ideal malaria vaccine will prevent all infection by priming the immune system to destroy all malarial parasites. But the problem is this degree of protection is very difficult to achieve and may not be technically feasible with present human knowledge of vaccinology and expertise. The ongoing work on malaria vaccine will be a solace as it will be able to prevent malarial deaths to a large extent, if not wipe out the problem altogether.
Scientists in the US, the UK and Germany have thus far identified 40 promising antigens. There are many more antigens to be isolated for effective development of malarial vaccine. "Moreover the parasite changes through several life stages even while in the human host, presenting a different subset of molecules for the immune system to combat at each stage," he said, adding that scientists are working on solutions to over come these challenges.

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