The World Health Organisation representative to India Dr Roderico H Ofrin on Monday said that in line with WHO Global Malaria Technical Strategy, India has developed a national framework for malaria elimination to achieve zero cases by 2027 and it will eliminate malaria by 2030.
The Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya chaired an event in Delhi organised on World Malaria Day Union which was attended by Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, Minister of State for Health Dr Bharati P Pawar, and WHO representative to India Dr Roderico Ofrin.
India’s efforts towards eliminating malaria:
It is important to note that according to several reports, malaria impacts India more than anywhere else in southeast Asia, but relief could be on the way if the early promise of vaccines in development is fulfilled.
Malaria remains a deadly disease around the world, primarily affecting children below the age of five. In southeast Asia, India is bearing the brunt, accounting for 80% of the region’s malaria burden.
However, the nation’s investment and support for control and elimination programmes is beginning to pay off, as India’s vaccine research and development begins to offer signs of hope.
Malaria parasites have a complex life cycle and we still don’t fully understand the immune response to infection. What we know is that people who are repeatedly exposed to malaria develop immunity to the disease.
Because malaria immunity can be acquired, it suggests a malaria vaccine would be possible. But the complexity of the malaria parasite makes developing a vaccine against any stage of the parasite a formidable challenge.
Injecting irradiated sporozoites (an early stage of the malaria parasite that infects liver cells) or transferring antibodies from malaria-immune adults can protect others from infection.
The RTS,S — also known as Mosquirix — is the world’s first WHO-approved vaccine against the type of malaria caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. The vaccine is based on a protein expressed on the surface of sporozoite, called circumsporozoite protein (CSP).
The vaccine is under evaluation in the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP) in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. Ongoing studies have shown the vaccine reduces deadly malaria by about 30%. Based on this, the WHO has recognised Mosquirix as a potentially complementary tool to fight the global malaria burden.
What the malaria infection studies tell us
Controlled human malaria infection studies have the potential to fast-track initial evaluations of vaccine efficacy and can help conduct first trials of vaccines that rely on fewer adult subjects.
Controlled human malaria infection has also been increasingly implemented in places where malaria is endemic. It is critically important to understand dynamics between vaccine-induced immunity and pre-existing immunity during ongoing natural exposure to the disease.
Many countries, such as the USA, UK, Germany, Australia, Kenya, and Thailand have developed the capacity to do controlled human malaria infection studies.
India has all the infrastructure in place to do the same, but is yet to make a model available for malaria researchers. Doing so could accelerate the development of candidate vaccines to fight malaria and other diseases.
Vaccine research and development is a time-consuming process that requires extensive governmental and non-governmental support.
In India, a lot of local research is underway to develop new vaccines against several deadly diseases, including dengue, chikungunya, cholera, and shigella, as well as malaria. With substantial investment from the Indian government, these initiatives could pave the way for the creation of globally beneficial vaccines.
(With inputs from agencies)