While Working to Eradicate Malaria, Let’s Eliminate Malaria Deaths

Last week, there was a glimmer of hope for everyone that suffers from malaria: the world’s first-ever malaria vaccine received a green light from European authorities. While we aren’t out of the woods yet, this is a positive step toward eliminating this deadly foe. While RTS,S, does provide hope for a tomorrow without malaria, we cannot be lulled into complacency — this is not a panacea for malaria.

The sad truth about malaria is that it continues to be one of the most deadly conditions in the world. In 2013, 128 million people contracted malaria, of whom more than half a million died. 1.2 billion people remain at high risk of contracting the infection. Every minute a person dies from malaria, and by the time you are finished reading this piece, nearly three people will have succumbed to the parasite.

RTS,S, or Mosquirix, has a long history. Investigators have been developing this for more than 30 years, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed a small fortune — estimates are north of $200 million — to fund the vaccine’s development, according to recent media reports. Studies suggest that the Phase III regiment of RTS,S, reduced the number of malaria cases by almost 40 percent in toddlers and 27 percent in infants. It also prevented 6000 cases of malaria per 1000 vaccinated children over four years.

Efforts continue on many fronts to eradicate malaria, but as a clinician caring for people with malaria, my more immediate goal is to keep children alive. Malaria deaths have been cut nearly half (47 percent) since 2000 as a result of better drugs, improved prevention and more rapid diagnoses, but the war is far from over.

The malaria parasite is a formidable —> Read More