Can A New Vaccine Put An End To Malaria?

16:52 minutes

a closeup of a mosquito sucking blood on white human skin
Credit: CDC

The World Health Organization estimates that every two minutes, a child somewhere in the world dies of malaria. As of 2018, the parasite-induced disease kills a total of more than 400,000 people every year—most of them children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa.

While the quest for a malaria vaccine is more than 50 years old, there is still no licensed, fully approved option. The closest to approval, called RTS,S, is being piloted in several countries, with efficacy estimates hovering around 56 percent.

But after a new vaccine, called R21, demonstrated more than 75% efficacy in a small trial in Burkina Faso, is there hope for a more efficient push to reduce the global burden of malaria?

Ira talks to malaria vaccine researcher Prakash Srinivasan and Biden administration malaria coordinator Raj Panjabi about the implications of a vaccine milestone—and the work remaining ahead. Plus, how the COVID-19 pandemic might inform future progress in global health.

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Segment Guests

Prakash Srinivasan

Prakash Srinivasan is an assistant professor of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology in the Malaria Research Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Raj Panjabi

Raj Panjabi is coordinator of the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative at the United States Agency for International Development, founder of Last Mile Health, and a physician based in Washington, D.C..

Segment Transcript

The transcript for this segment is being processed. It will be posted within one week after the episode airs.

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Christie Taylor is a producer for Science Friday. Her day involves diligent research, too many phone calls for an introvert, and asking scientists if they have any audio of that narwhal heartbeat.

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Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

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