Today, Monday 25 April 2022, the world commemorates World Malaria Day. Created through the combined efforts of WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, UNDP and other partners, this day aims to take strong action in the collective fight for a world free of this disease. The theme of this year’s event is “Innovating to reduce the burden of malaria and save lives”.
Thus, WHO through this theme calls for investment and innovation to find new approaches to vector control, new diagnostics, new antimalarial drugs and other tools to accelerate progress against this disease. The UN organisation therefore emphasises that currently no tool in the range to solve the problem of malaria.
Malaria in numbers
According to the WHO, half of the world is still exposed to or at risk of contracting malaria, a preventable and treatable disease that claims the life of a child every two minutes, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2020, 241 million cases were recorded worldwide and 627,000 deaths in 85 countries, according to the UN agency. More than two-thirds of these deaths were among children under five living in the African region.
The first malaria vaccine is born
In addition, for years WHO and its partners have been engaged in initiatives with the world’s leading manufacturers to develop the production of quality medicines and vaccines to help malaria-endemic countries. The world’s first malaria vaccine, “RTS S”, has finally been developed. Trials conducted since 2019 in Malawi, Ghana and Kenya, involving more than one million children, have shown fairly satisfactory results. It was the early stages of this programme that led the WHO to approve its widespread use throughout sub-Saharan Africa and in other areas where the risk of malaria transmission is quite high.
In addition, the pilots of this programme demonstrated that the vaccine was safe and significantly reduced fatal cases of the disease. Other vaccines may emerge in the coming years, including one developed by Oxford University, Matrix-M, which has been shown in trials to be highly effective.
The “RTSS”, which is the first ever recommended vaccine against a parasitic disease, is a major scientific breakthrough and illustrates what innovation can achieve in practice.
Malaria is a potentially fatal parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Research has shown that the parasite is transmitted from person to person through the bites of a female Anopheles mosquito, which needs blood to feed its eggs.