Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

Photo of Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

Malaria Vaccine!

Today’s post is short.  There was a report last week of a successful vaccine for malaria.  The vaccine in its current form will present logistical challenges for wide spread use, but this is a start and my guess is that clever people in the biotech industry and various academic and government labs will figure something out.  Currently there are about 7 billion people on Earth and about 60 million deaths per year.  About 660,000 of these deaths are due to malaria, with about 86% of the deaths in kids less than 5.  There are about 200 million clinical episodes per year, and the disease caused by infection with a protozoan (a type of parasitic microorganism) that is transmitted by mosquitos.  About half of the world’s population is at risk.   The map below shows the history of malaria eradication (pesticide, draining swamps etc.) since the middle 1800s.  The dark blue areas are at risk as of 2010.   There is also concern that this at risk zone might spread with global warming.   Here is a link an excellent CDC site with facts on malaria.



I started medical school in 1982, and if the preliminary success of the vaccine reported last week can be scaled up, it will be the biggest breakthrough since I started.  The topic of vaccines also highlights the key role of prevention for both communicable and non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity and many forms of cancers.  The fact that much of the word once at risk for malaria is no longer at risk also shows the role of the environment, behavior, and public policy in preventing diseases of all types.






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