Malaria is the world’s most important tropical parasitic disease that kills more people than any other communicable disease with the exception of tuberculosis. The causative agents in humans are four species of Plasmodium protozoa: P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae. Of these, P. falciparum accounts for the majority of infections and is the most lethal. Malaria is a public health problem today in more than 106 countries, inhabited by a total of 3.4 billion people-50% of the world’s population. Worldwide prevalence of the disease is estimated to be on the order of 135-287 million clinical cases each year. Mortality due to malaria is estimated to be in the range of 473,000-789,000 each year. The vast majority of deaths occur among young children in Africa, especially in remote rural areas with poor access to health services. Therefore, P. falciparum vaccine development has become a high research priority. The malaria parasite has 14 chromosomes, an estimated 5300 genes (many of which vary extensively between strains) and a complex 4-stage life cycle as it passes from a mosquito vector to humans and back again. Furthermore, the natural P. falciparum infection does not result in immunity, and partial immunity occurs only after years of recurring infections and illnesses. Therefore, a vaccine must outperform the immune response to the natural infection. This complexity has impeded vaccine development.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)