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Tropical Infectious Diseases – World's first malaria vaccination program launched in Cameroon – News

Tropical Infectious Diseases – World's first malaria vaccination program launched in Cameroon – News


In the fight against malaria, a new vaccine should lead to fewer infections and fewer deaths.

The contagious disease malaria It represents a major health risk, especially in Africa, where 95 percent of all cases worldwide are recorded there. In 2021, 247 million malaria cases were recorded worldwide. More than 600,000 people die from it every year. Most of them are children under the age of five. Above all, the COVID-19 pandemic, growing insecticide resistance and economic problems have hampered the global fight against malaria in recent years.

Vaccination program begins in Cameroon: After successful trials, including in Ghana and Kenya, Cameroon this week launched the world's first malaria vaccination programme. About 6.6 million children in Africa will be vaccinated against malaria by 2025, says the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). More than 30 African countries have shown interest in malaria vaccination.

Most infections and deaths occur in places where health systems are at their weakest.

What do you hope to achieve from this vaccination programme? Manuel Hetzel is an epidemiologist and malaria expert at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH). As an expert, he hopes to reduce malaria cases and deaths, thus providing a great deal of relief to the affected people and countries. “The biggest challenge is being able to reach children in areas severely affected by malaria. This is the problem in most African countries. Most infections and deaths occur where health systems are at their weakest,” Hetzel says. Children must be reached In a timely manner, and above all, they must receive the four vaccination doses necessary for the vaccine to be effective.

How effective is the malaria vaccine? In up to 40 percent of cases, vaccination prevents malaria. Epidemiologist Hetzel explains the connection: There are six million cases of malaria in Cameroon every year. “If 40 percent of this can be prevented, that is less than two million! Even if children can only be protected to a certain extent, the likelihood of them falling ill or dying is diminished. There is also an economic benefit because malaria always has subsequent costs: Parents have to organize funds for expensive treatment.If these follow-up problems can be reduced, it will be a great advance.

The best measure is really mosquito nets. These should always be used if possible.

What else helps fight malaria? In addition to vaccination, it is very important to be able to protect yourself from the bites of the vector Anopheles mosquito, as malaria expert Hetzel explains: “The best measure is mosquito nets. They should always be used if possible. If a disease occurs, it should be diagnosed as quickly as possible and then treated with effective medications. “These two measures are absolutely essential in malaria areas. Even vaccination does not change that.”

RTS,S malaria vaccine

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The Mosquirix malaria vaccine is now being used in Cameroon's vaccination campaign.

Global Fund (GAVI)/Nana Kofi Aqua

The RTS,S malaria vaccine, also known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in collaboration with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. The active ingredient targets the parasite Plasmodium falciparumWhich causes malaria and is spread by the Anopheles mosquito when it bites.

The malaria parasite goes through several stages in its life cycle. The vaccine targets sporozoites. This is the infectious stage of Plasmodium, the pathogen that causes malaria. They penetrate the cells of the host organism and carry out other processes in their reproductive cycle there.

Upon vaccination, the human immune system is stimulated to produce antibodies against the perispore protein, which is found on the surface of the sporozoites. If a vaccinated person is later bitten by a mosquito infected with malaria, antibodies can neutralize the sporozoites in the bloodstream and prevent the parasite from causing infection.

Can malaria be eliminated this way? This goal is already being achieved in the African countries where the most children die, namely Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo and Mozambique, as well as Cameroon and Tanzania. Hetzel says the malaria burden and high mortality rate should decline here. This is a contribution to eliminating malaria worldwide. The vaccine and other tools available may not yet be sufficient to achieve this. “But a vaccine is a very important tool if it can be used as widely as possible.”