From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : About the vaccine
Mains level : Malaria and its incidence in India
- The WHO welcomed a pilot project in Malawi of administering a malaria vaccine to children below the age of 2 years.
RTS,S vaccine (Mosquirix)
- The vaccine has been developed by GSK — the company is donating about 10 million doses of the product for the pilot.
- It was created in 1987 by GSK, and was subsequently developed with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
- RTS,S aims to trigger the immune system to defend against the first stages of malaria when the Plasmodium falciparum parasite enters the human host’s bloodstream through a mosquito bite and infects liver cells.
- The vaccine is designed to prevent the parasite from infecting the liver, where it can mature, multiply, re-enter the bloodstream, and infect red blood cells, which can lead to disease symptoms.
- In 2014, the vaccine cleared phase III clinical trials which certified that it was both effective and safe for use in humans.
Why fear Malaria?
- Malaria is a potentially life-threatening parasitic disease caused by the parasites Plasmodium viviax (P.vivax), P.falciparum, P.malariae, and P.ovale transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito.
- Malaria, according to the WHO, remains one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes.
- Children under the age of 5 are at greatest risk from its life-threatening complications.
Why trials in Malawi?
- A total 3, 60,000 children across three African countries — Malawi, Ghana and Kenya — will be covered every year with the vaccine.
- Most of these deaths are in Africa, where more than 2,50,000 children die from the disease every year.
- Malaria is a constant threat in the African communities where this vaccine will be given. The poorest children suffer the most and are at highest risk of death.
How badly is India affected by malaria?
- India ranks very high in the list of countries with a serious malaria burden.
- In 2018, 3,99,134 cases of malaria and 85 deaths due to the disease were reported in the country, according to data from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.
- Six states — Odisha (40%), Chhattisgarh (20%), Jharkhand (20%), Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and Mizoram (5-7%) — bear the brunt of malaria in India.
- These states, along with the tribal areas of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, account for 90% of India’s malaria burden.