The World Health Organization (WHO) has just recommended the wide use of the vaccine against malaria or malaria, based on the results of a pilot program that began in 2019, and through which nearly 800,000 children have already been immunized in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
Malaria is a parasitic disease that is contracted by the bite of a mosquito. WHO estimates that there were 229 million cases globally in 2019, and more than 400,000 people died that year, 260,000 of them children under the age of 5 in the sub-Saharan African region.
According to the international organization, after applying more than 2 million doses of the Mosquirix vaccine, the first against this disease that is endemic in several regions of the world, a significant decrease has been observed, of around 30%, in severe cases and fatal from malaria.
An article in the scientific journal The Lancet indicates that the vaccine, produced by the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, has a high safety and efficacy of more than 77%.
More than 100 countries present cases of malaria, more than half of the world’s population is at risk.
Each year, approximately 2,000 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States. The vast majority of these cases are travelers or immigrants returning from parts of the world where there is endemic malaria transmission, such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
In Latin America, 21 countries have malaria endemic areas. Venezuela is the country with the most cases, between 2015 and 2018 it registered 1,255,299 cases. And in 2017, the country was the one with the highest increase in cases worldwide.
The countries in the region that account for almost 85% of malaria cases are: Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil and Peru.
The disease is a major drain on many national economies, affected by loss of life and health costs. Since many countries with malaria are already among the poorest nations, the disease helps maintain a vicious cycle of disease and poverty.
The ABC: Questions and Answers on Malaria (source, CDC)
What is malaria or malaria?
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito that feeds on humans.
People who get malaria are often very sick with a high fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms.
Four types of malaria parasites infect humans: Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae. There is a zoonotic malaria, which is transmitted from macaque monkeys to humans.
Malaria caused by the P. falciparum parasite is the type most likely to cause serious infections and, if not treated quickly, can lead to death. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can generally be prevented.
How is malaria transmitted?
Generally, people contract malaria from the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. Only Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria. Mosquitoes become infected by biting a person who carries the parasite. When bitten, the mosquito draws a small amount of blood that contains microscopic malaria parasites. About a week later, when the mosquito bites to eat again, these parasites mix with the mosquito’s saliva and inject into the person. That is the chain of contagion.
Because the malaria parasite is found in the red blood cells of an infected person, malaria can also be transmitted through blood transfusions, organ transplants, or the sharing of blood-contaminated needles or syringes. Malaria can also be transmitted from the mother to the fetus before or during childbirth, this form is called malaria or congenital malaria.
Is malaria transmitted from person to person?
No, malaria is not contagious like influenza can be, and it is not a sexual infection.
What are the symptoms of malaria?
In countries where malaria is practically non-existent, its symptoms can be mistaken for those of the flu: fever, chills, headache, body aches, nausea and vomiting, sweating and general malaise.
In countries with a high incidence of malaria, people recognize symptoms immediately.
Is malaria very serious?
Severe malaria occurs when infections are complicated by organ failure or abnormalities in the patient’s blood or metabolism. Manifestations of severe malaria include the following:
- Cerebral malaria, with abnormal behavior, impaired consciousness, seizures, other neurological abnormalities, and even coma
- Severe anemia due to hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells).
- Hemoglobinuria (hemoglobin in the urine) due to hemolysis.
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), an inflammatory reaction in the lungs that inhibits oxygen exchange, which can occur even after the parasite count has decreased in response to treatment.
- Blood clotting abnormalities.
- Low blood pressure caused by cardiovascular collapse.
- Acute kidney injury
- Hyperparasitemia, where more than 5% of red blood cells are infected by malaria parasites.
- Metabolic acidosis (excessive acidity in the blood and tissue fluids), often associated with hypoglycemia.
- Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). Hypoglycemia can also occur in pregnant women with uncomplicated malaria or after treatment with quinine.
Severe malaria is a medical emergency and must be treated urgently and aggressively.
How is malaria diagnosed?
The doctor takes a drop of blood and looks at it under a microscope for the malaria parasites.
How long does the disease last?
It does not have a unique cycle like other diseases. Symptoms usually appear between 10 days and 4 months in which the person was bitten by the mosquito. However, some people only experience symptoms within a year.
In P. vivax and P. ovale types, parasites can remain dormant in the liver for several months, up to 4 years, from the bite. When they stop hibernating and invade the cells is when the person begins to present symptoms.
Which countries have the most malaria?
The CDC has a list of countries, and specifically which regions are the most affected.
There are medications that help prevent the disease.
How is malaria treated?
The disease must be treated early in its course, before it becomes serious and life-threatening. There are several good antimalarial drugs available and they should be taken from the beginning. The most important step is to see a doctor if the person is ill and is currently or has recently been in an area with malaria, so that the disease is diagnosed and treated immediately.
Can malaria be cured?
Using the right medication for the person, malaria can be cured. Doctors emphasize this a lot because some parasites are resistant to certain drugs, which makes the drug ineffective.
How can malaria be prevented?
Mosquito-borne diseases can be prevented by eliminating the insect: with fumigation, avoiding keeping stagnant waters where it reproduces more easily, using effective repellants to prevent bites, and mosquito nets.
The preventive vaccine puts on the table the hope of an eradication of the disease in the future.