Anopheles Mosquito

From :
Staff Writer
1 November 2011

The rainy season is here and once again government is urging people to take precautions against malaria.

While historically the disease has only affected the northern parts of the country, it has been found in the south. A spokesperson from the Ministry of Health, Tuduetso Kelapile told Mmegi that while the southern part of the country is historically a malaria free area it has recently been affected.

“We have had cases of malaria in Kweneng East, Kgatleng and Letlhakeng,” she said, adding that the ministry carries out thorough investigations in the areas to establish the presence of malaria. Once the disease is found, intervention measures such as spraying and supplying people with mosquito nets will be implemented.

Kelapile said that nationally her ministry recorded 15 deaths from malaria over the last two years.

“We recorded seven deaths in 2009 and eight last year,” she said. This year only, there have been 77 confirmed cases in Bobirwa, 57 in Tutume, 40 in Boteti, 37 in Palapye, 31 in Selebi-Phikwe, 30 in Kweneng East, 27 in Ngami and 23 in Kgatleng. Kelapile said that the government currently distributes mosquito nets to people who reside in malaria endemic areas such as Okavango, Chobe, Ngami, Nata Gweta areas, Boteti-West and some targeted areas in Bobirwa and Tutume.

Meanwhile there could be a new malaria vaccine for children soon. Results of a study recently conducted in some African countries have shown that the vaccine is effective in blocking malaria in children aged five to 17 months approximately by half. The results of Phase Three of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine Research included 15,460 infants at 11 trial sites in seven countries across sub-Saharan Africa and has been running since 2009. It has shown that three doses of the vaccine reduced the risk of children experiencing clinical malaria and severe malaria by 56 percent. The results and are in line with those from previous phases of the study.

According to Dr Ekpenyong Ekanem, a member of the study team, the vaccine, known as RTS,S is designed to trigger the immune system to defend against Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite when it first enters the bloodstream or when the parasite infects liver cells.

He said that the vaccine is designed to prevent the parasite from infecting, maturing and multiplying in the liver, and from re-entering the bloodstream and infecting red blood cells, at which point the affected person would begin to show symptoms of the disease.

Clinical malaria results in high fevers and chills. It can rapidly develop into severe malaria, typified by serious effects on the blood, brain, or kidneys that can prove fatal. The target population for this vaccine is young infants, who would receive the malaria vaccine together with routine immunisation.

Mmegi has learnt that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has already taken the unusual step of indicating that it could recommend this first malaria vaccine for use in some African countries as early as 2015, depending on the full Phase Three trial results that will become available in 2014.

The vaccine has been developed by a public-private partnership between GlaxoSmithKline and the Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) Malaria Vaccine Initiative, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, primarily for use in infants and young children in sub-Saharan Africa.