What is malaria? How could we cure it?
Malaria is a disease caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Transmitted by mosquitoes, there are several different kinds of malaria distributed throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, causing somewhere between 300-500 million cases of disease each year, and as many as 1 million deaths. In fact, malaria is one of the biggest killers of children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the regions of the world where the burden from malaria is the highest. Malaria is usually an acute disease, manifesting itself with severe fever, chills, headache and often nausea as well. Some types of malaria can have relapsing episodes over a time period of many years.
Having said this, malaria is easily preventable, through avoiding mosquito bites by wearing appropriate clothing and sleeping under insecticide-treated bednets, or through taking preventative medication (called prophylaxis). Malaria is also treatable once symptoms appear, through ingesting safe, effective and relatively cheap drugs. With such control measures at hand, you may ask why malaria is still such a huge problem in our world; the answer is that delivering control strategies and treatment to populations most at risk is difficult, and often countries with high malaria burdens don’t have efficient and effective health systems in place to coordinate control efforts.
International non-governmental organisations such as the World Health Organisation, as well as a multitude of non-profit organisations such as the Malaria Consortium and Malaria No More, work tirelessly to bring malaria control and treatment to the places that need it most, with the aim to eradicate malaria as a disease of public health importance. There are also many research groups around the world that are striving to create new, more effective medications and drugs. For some time now, there has also been work in progress trying to develop a vaccine against malaria; at this point, there has been little applied success, but with further research and efforts, an immunization against Plasmodium may be forthcoming in the future.