What can be so small you need a microscope to see it, yet still
kills as many as 300 to 500 million
people a year?
What has become so widely resistant
to past vaccines, that no true
vaccine has yet been found?
What is considered a parasite,
carried by mosquitoes, and finds human vertebrate
What is currently endemic in tropical and subtropical climates, but
is spreading to other countries
due to increased international travel, changes in temperatures due
to global warming, and an increase in the number of vectors?
The answer: Plasmodium
and the disease it causes, Malaria.
Plasmodium falciparum is both the most deadly and most researched
species of malaria (MVI fact sheet). Four forms of malaria Plasmodium
exist: Plasmodium falciparum, vivax, ovale, and malariae. The majority of the research conducted is to find a vaccine or treatment for the disease. In an
article by Thomas Smith
he states, "Despite considerable efforts ...and
millions of dollars spent, there is still no registered vaccine against
Plasmodium falciparum malaria." Some believe that due to the
ineffectiveness of the past, any vaccine found will most likely not become
completely effective (Smith). Others remain hopeful citing the fact that the species complex
life cycle offers numerous options for vaccines and treatments, as well as the proof that partial immunity does occur in endemic areas in some people (Francis).
However, since both morbidity and mortality rates are so high in endemic
areas, finding a vaccine is incredibly important (Smith). "Untreated, up to 20% of
people infected with falciparum malaria will die." (MVI).