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WHO approves world's first malaria vaccine; vaccination starts in Africa

The world's first malaria vaccine called RTS,S is the result of 30 years of research and development by GSK, the WHO said. The vaccine should be administered in a schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age till 18 months. Till it comes to all, it helps to prevent the disease by identifying the pesky female killer mosquitoes. How?

GENEVA, Oct 9: The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the world's first malaria vaccine for children in sub-Saharan and other regions in Africa with high prevalence of the disease.

The vaccine should be administered in a schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age till 18 months.

The malaria vaccine called RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) or Mosquirix is the result of 30 years of research and development by GSK, the WHO said in a release.

It consists of a part of a protein from the parasite bound to a part of a second protein, from the hepatitis B virus, which helps immune cells recognise the substance.

The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme using the RTS,S vaccine against plasmodium falciparum parasite in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi involving 800,000 children since 2019.

Plasmodium falciparum is the parasite that causes malaria in humans. The parasite is transmitted through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito.

Data from the pilot trial programme had shown that more than two-thirds of children in the 3 countries benefited from the RTS,S vaccine. There was no adverse effects found. Besides, the estimates show that the vaccine is cost effective.

Malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260,000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually.

The WHO observes April 25 as World Malaria Day to spread awareness about the mosquito-borne disease.

Identifying the female Anopheles mosquito

Knowing the 'pesky' helps a lot in preventing its killing bites.

Anopheles mosquito, the most notorious vector, has a pair of mouthpart palps that are about the same length as the proboscis. And bites are generally itchy.

The Anopheles mosquito has a dark brown to the black-coloured body.

Its stomach points upwards unlike Culex at an angle of 45 degrees. Its wings are spotted. Culex and Aedes (causing dengue) have transparent wings.

Only the female Anopheles mosquito spreads the protozoan parasite because they need to feed on human blood to produce eggs. After their blood meal they take rest to digest the blood and then go to a still water surface and lay the eggs, about 200 at a time and then fly back for the next meal.

If one is flying around very close to you, it has an intention of a 'bloody meal' and so it is a female Anopheles because a male one feeds off plants.

Female Anopheles' peak biting time is midnight to very early morning unlike Aedes which bites during daytime. It breeds in still water.

Currently, malaria is mainly occurring in less developed tropical and subtropical parts of the world, killing millions.

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