Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Reason To Hope For Change In Africa

If a new malaria vaccine gets cleared by regulators as being safe for administration, a scourge of Africa could finally be brought under control and millions of people would no longer have to suffer from the debilitating effects of malaria.
If regulators determine the vaccine is safe, it could be on the market in three to five years - the first vaccine against a human parasite.

Tens of millions of Africans are plagued by malaria every year, and more than a third of the hospital beds in this rural Kenyan region next to Lake Victoria are dedicated to its victims. More than 1 million children die of the disease in Africa annually, a crippling economic drain that prolongs a cycle of disease and poverty throughout the continent.

Malaria is also prevalent in parts of Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America.

This vaccine was developed specifically for Africa, however, and will only prevent the African strain of the disease. Experts say it would be a historic advancement.

"Some may say, '50 percent, that's not great.' And that's true. If you get a measles vaccine, you're not going to get measles again," said Dr. Dave Jones, a U.S. Army colonel and director of a clinic in nearby Kombewa operated by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the Kenya Medical Research Institute.
A malaria vaccine would be one tool in reducing the incidence of malaria and would allow cash-strapped nations to focus on economic development rather than see a significant portion of their population waste away year after year.

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