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Friday, October 8, 2021

Malaria vaccine !!

Long ago, in mid 1970s there were no rains – and Kairavini pushkarini (the holy tank of Sri Parthasarathi swami) temple went dry – so many Triplicane youth played Cricket there !  .. .. those were the times, when Corporation would harvest a new specie of fish ! – bring them in pots and leave a handful in every household that had well .. .. would take a few of them and grow them in Horlicks bottle – they would be so nice to watch.

Corona – Covid 19 shook the globe and around this time last year, the World was really tense – marketing giants pushed every product stating them to be effective against Covid.  Tons of sanitisers, anti-septic liquids!, disinfectants, hand cleansers, floor cleaners – and more were bought by people, who started taking bath many a times every day, trying to get rid of that invisible germ !   The World, the humanity has been saved by vaccines and the Nation is very very thankful to our respectful PM Shri Narendra Modiji for making it available, in a planned manner at our doorsteps  “free of cost”.  If only that had been left to Corporates, and say the vaccines had been priced at say Rs.25000/- per shot – the middle class, would have applied leave & loan and would have stood in long queues in front of Corporate hospitals – the reality, we walked into PHC and had the vaccine waiting for less than 10 minutes.  Great efficiency and care for the Nation.

 - And that is not a new rage . .. .. a decade or so earlier,  Mosquito repellants were household names .. .. we were purchasing Tortoise, Goodknight and more of their elk .. ..  thinking that they would eliminate mosquitoes.

The fish in Temple tank was ‘guppies’  - were newly introduced to the tank – in fact Kairavini pushkarini was known not to have any fish at all .. ..  Poecilia reticulata developed a big reputation as a  mosquito fighter that would kill the larvae.   Decades later, now some Scientists state that they  threaten biodiversity; they are invasive and drive the native fish populations out by  competing with them for food and living space, and had likely changed the cycle of nutrients in water.

Not a post on Triplicane or on the fish .. .. but on mosquito borne disease – the dreaded “Malaria”.  Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that affects humans and other animals. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, tiredness, vomiting, and headaches.  In severe cases, it can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma, or death.  Symptoms usually begin ten to fifteen days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. If not properly treated, people may have recurrences of the disease months later. Malaria is dreaded for it is  a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable. In 2019, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide & the  malaria deaths stood at 409000 in 2019. Children aged under 5 years are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria. The WHO African Region carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2019, the region was home to 94% of malaria cases and deaths.

The world has gained a new weapon in the war on malaria, among the oldest known and deadliest of infectious diseases: the first vaccine shown to help prevent the disease. By one estimate, it will save tens of thousands of children each year. The new vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, rouses a child’s immune system to thwart Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of five malaria pathogens and the most prevalent in Africa. The World Health Organization has  endorsed the vaccine, the first step in a process that should lead to wide distribution in poor countries. To have a malaria vaccine that is safe, moderately effective and ready for distribution is “a historic event,”  said the Director of the W.H.O.’s global malaria program.

Malaria is rare in the developed world. There are just 2,000 cases in the United States each year, mostly among travelers returning from countries in which the disease is endemic.

The vaccine, called Mosquirix, is not just a first for malaria — it is the first developed for any parasitic disease. Parasites are much more complex than viruses or bacteria, and the quest for a malaria vaccine has been underway for a hundred years.  “It’s a huge jump from the science perspective to have a first-generation vaccine against a human parasite,” the Director added. In clinical trials, the vaccine had an efficacy of about 50 percent against severe malaria in the first year, but the figure dropped close to zero by the fourth year. And the trials did not directly measure the vaccine’s impact on deaths, which has led some experts to question whether it is a worthwhile investment in countries with countless other intractable problems.

Malaria has been with us for millennia, and the dream of a malaria vaccine has been a long-held, but unattainable dream. Today, the RTS,S malaria vaccine, more than 30 years in the making, changes the course of public health history. We still have a very long road to travel. But this is a long stride down that road    

“This complex, but preventable and treatable disease, causes hundreds of millions of infections each year, risking lives and livelihoods, trapping people in poverty in some of the poorest countries in Africa, and creating ‘disease blind spots’ which threaten our own health security at home. If we save lives from malaria today, we can also protect ourselves against the diseases of tomorrow,”  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
8th Oct 2021. 

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