This week the WHO recommended widespread use of a malaria vaccine among children in regions with moderate to high transmission of the most virulent malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. Malaria is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in under-5 children in places like sub-Saharan Africa, and this vaccine could save tens of thousands of children’s lives every year.
The RTS,S/AS01 vaccine was piloted with more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. Trials have found the vaccine to reduce deaths from malaria by up to 30% and to have a favorable safety profile, and people who were vaccinated did not decrease their use of insecticide-treated nets. The distribution of this vaccine should supplement and not replace other anti-malaria efforts.
In North America, malaria occurs chiefly in travelers after they return. Any febrile patient returning from a malaria-endemic country should be evaluated for malaria. To prevent malaria, CDC recommends malaria prophylaxis for those traveling, and the guidelines vary by country and region. If you’re interested in a refresher on the pathology, diagnosis, and treatment of malaria, the CDC’s DPDx – Malaria resource provides a great review.