Academic journal article Pepperdine Policy Review

Nets or Vaccines: Malaria Vaccine Research

Academic journal article Pepperdine Policy Review

Nets or Vaccines: Malaria Vaccine Research

Article excerpt


Malaria is one of the most prevalent and debilitating diseases in the world. In 2010 the World Health Organization (WHO) reported there were 219 million clinical cases of malaria resulting in 660,000 deaths, most of which occurred in Africa. (CDC, 2012c) This parasite has been targeted by the WHO for eradication (Tanner & Savigny, 2008) after decades of focus on management and treatment due to spreading strains of drug-resistant malaria. (Turschner & Efferth, 2009, p. 206) This new battle focuses on preventing malaria infection through educational programs, mosquito nets and insecticide. In addition to these efforts, research is being conducted into the creation of a malaria vaccine. However the development of this vaccine has proven enormously costly and despite a successful trial (Times, 2013) it still remains to be seen if the current development will be more effective than the tried and tested methods.

This paper will begin with a description of malaria and the unique challenges facing researchers as well as an examination of the impacts of malaria on Africa. It will then investigate the impact that the current eradication efforts have had on the disease and provide historical context for malaria eradication. The malaria vaccine will then be examined, both in terms of the successful trial of the RTS,S vaccine and the ongoing development of other vaccines. It will show that while the current vaccine has promise, the high cost relative to other methods of infection prevention will limit the utility of the vaccine and suggest that a malaria vaccine would at best provide an incremental benefit to existing treatments rather than a new treatment option.


Malaria is caused by a mosquito-borne parasite of the genus Plasmodium found in tropical climates. Five varieties are known to exist, of which Plasmodium Falciparum is the most widespread and deadly. (CDC, 2012c) This is not to say that it is uniquely lethal, as P. Vivax has been shown to be equally dangerous (Baird, 2007, p. 533) though it is not as widespread as Falciparum. (Baird, 2007, p. 534) That said since Falciparum is responsible for the majority of deaths, it is the strain that has been the focus of vaccine research. (Sanaría, 2013) The parasite infects its host through mosquito saliva during feeding. It then travels to the liver to reproduce into its infectious form, after which it moves into the blood stream, destroying red blood cells as part of its reproductive process. (CDC, 2012a) If left untreated it will cause jaundice, kidney failure, coma and eventually death. (CDC, 2012c)

Developing an effective treatment or vaccine has proven difficult due to the adaptability of the parasite. (Turschner & Efferth, 2009, p. 206) The various species of Plasmodium show high genetic variance due to a rapid lifecycle and as a consequence human treatment efforts have created drug resistant strains. Research has also been complicated by the numerous life stages of the parasite, each of which requires a different method to attack. This has consequently raised the cost of research and spread the research focus. It has proven to be vicious cycle of increased research leading to increased treatment leading to the need for more research. The parasite is proving to be so capable of adapting to treatment that previously promising research is now increasingly useless. (CDC, 2010)

Malaria is of particular concern not just for the substantial human cost but also for the economic costs. As previously mentioned, the WHO recorded 660,000 deaths in 2010, but estimated that the total could have been as high as 836,000 due to underreporting and misdiagnosis. (WHO, 2013a) Other sources indicate that the WHO estimates are still too low, with some claiming a million deaths per year from malaria. (Sanaría, 2013) In addition, studies have shown that the presence of malaria cripples economic growth and development. A study by the Institute for the Study of Labor indicated that the presence of malaria reduces income by half. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.