While NIH dabbles in malaria vaccine development, 600,000 deaths (mostly children) this year — They need insecticides not research fantasies

Michael Gerson writes about the latest malaria vaccine research in the WaPo:

If the vaccine works as promised, it would be an extraordinary scientific milestone: the first highly effective vaccine against a parasite. And this particular parasite has been living in human hosts, and killing them, since humans evolved. Hundreds of thousands of people die of malaria each year, mainly children under 5. A vaccine that prevents infection — rather than treatments that modify the severity of the disease — is important to malaria eradication. Even people with a low level of parasites and no symptoms can transmit the disease, through mosquitoes, to others.

While researchers play scientist — maybe their work will be fruitful, more likely not based on history — hundreds of thousands will die from malaria this year, mostly children under five year of age.

They need insecticide technology now — not pie-in-sky vaccine development.

Read Gerson’s column.

6 thoughts on “While NIH dabbles in malaria vaccine development, 600,000 deaths (mostly children) this year — They need insecticides not research fantasies”

  1. Vaccination against the Falciparum pathogens is likely to be iffy. These are parasites, not viruses, and have rather more sophisticated abilities to “evade” such immunological mechanisms of resistance as are engendered by prophylactic vaccination.

    There are also infectious disease benefits conferred by measures effectively preventing the vectors of malaria from getting at the hosts upon which the pathogens depend for propagation. Malaria isn’t the only infection transmitted by mosquitoes.

    Kill or otherwise incapacitate the skeeters and you’ve mitigated more than merely malaria morbidity and mortality.

  2. Bell’s got a point here. We are talking about the poorest of the poor. When a society gets rich enough to have windows, Malaria infections crash below sustainability and the vector colapses, so the best way to help in the long term would be to spread economic wealth (this will help with all sorts of things). However, Mr. Bell, you are being more than a little rude in the way you make this point. If you want polite discourse, please provide it.

    However, Milloy also has a point. We cannot wait for a vaccine that might not reach distribution point anytime soon, and might not even be possible. Nor can we wait for economic catch-up of the third world. That too is quite likely an eternal task. People are dying now. Our best weapon at this point in time is insecticide treatment indoors and out in affected areas.

    However, Milloy, I will counter that eliminating the mosquito is an impossible task in itself, and can only be a stop-gap. Unless develop a vaccine, we are not going to completely eliminate malaria.

  3. Hokay, Mr. Bell.
    The best way to bring the marginalized communities into the world community is to provide them with clean water (takes energy), education (takes energy, less of it), a reliable food supply (takes energy to produce and transport it), and economic opportunity in agriculture, manufacturing or services (takes energy, lots of it). It involves international trade and globalization.
    As it happens, private sector investors would like to do these things. They are generally blocked by an ugly alliance between foolish liberals (the kind who think DDT was not banned when, in effect, it was and largely still is) and tyrants pretending to be socialists. Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is an extreme case but the pattern is commonplace.
    Meanwhile, free markets have brought the Koreans, the Indonesians and the Taiwanese to the head table. Well, the South Koreans.

  4. I dunno if a malarial vaccine is practical — there are very few vaccines for bacteria, even, let alone paramecia (I think I have the order right). Eradication of mosquitoes and improved hygiene are valuable whether the vaccine is practical or not.

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