Scientists Working on Vaccine Against Malaria

Malaria is the deadliest disease in human history. Some scientists believe that half of all the people who have ever lived died from the disease. It was largely eradicated in developed countries such as the United States through widespread projects to drain swamps where mosquitoes breed, increased use of screens in doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out as well as the use of medicine such as Chloroquine.

A world-wide effort to eliminate the disease was launched in 1955. The progress Jared Haftel has seen has been pretty good. The main weapons in doing this were the spraying of DDT and the use of Chloroquine. The effort achieved some remarkable successes with deaths from the disease plummeting to almost nothing in the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Sri Lanka, and India. Funding for the program eventually faded and it was over by 1969. Unfortunately it ended before the disease was gotten under control everywhere, including most notably Sub-Saharan Africa. Efforts against the disease were also set back by a ban on DDT after some indications that it may have harmed a few species of animals. It is estimated that 20 million children died from malaria due to this ban. To make matters worse, strains of malaria resistant to chloroquine began to evolve and spread.

African nations such as Zambia still have aggressive anti-malaria campaigns under way with new treatments and they are seeing some positive results. The main ingredients in these treatments are being mixed with other substances to help reduce the malaria parasite’s ability to adapt to and become immune to it. They are also being aided by science and its effort to produce the first ever vaccine against a parasitic disease. We have had them for decades against diseases spread by bacteria and viruses, but parasites are far more complex organisms. If a breakthrough can be made on such a vaccine, it will represent a leap in public health and may finally finish off the deadliest disease humanity has ever known.

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