Post date: Aug 06, 2009 10:45:52 PM

Since the discovery that malaria was caused by a mosquito 100 years ago, two schools soon emerged as how to deal with this disease.  One school promoted the elimination of the mosquito, the other treated symptoms of malaria.  The debate over which is the best method continues to this day. 


The jury is in the verdict, treating the patent has been a dismal failure.  In the beginning quinine was used to help abate the symptoms of the disease.  However there were side effects, such as hearing loss and eventually the malaria parasite became immune to quinine.  The next anti-malarial was chloroquine, this drug has proven effective over a period of time, however the efficacy of chloroquine has been severely compromised, and there is growing resistance to this drug as well.  


Then came along the anti-malarial artemisian, a combination drug therapy known as ACT.  This compound until recently has had the ability to clear the blood of the malaria parasite within two or three days.  It has been reported by the press that in Cambodia, it is taking up to four or five days.  An indication resistance is developing.  This is a significant development as reported by BBC news, Professor Nick Day, director of the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, has been carrying out a study and said:  “Twice in the past, South East Asia has made a gift, unwittingly, of drug resistant parasites to the rest of the world, in particular to Africa”. 


So much for the failures of prophylactic medications, we now see a knight, coming to the rescue, mounted on a white horse, armed with a syringe loaded with malaria vaccine.  Once every one has been given a shot, malaria will exist only in the history books, as a has been disease, never again to rear its ugly head.  The dragon has been slain. 

Now for a reality check:   The malaria parasite is an incredibly complex, adaptable parasite.  The genetic make up of this parasite varies from one village to another.  If a vaccine were to work in one village, it most likely would not be effective in another village. 


A recent CNN on line report had an article titled ‘Researchers Say They Found Malaria’s Origin:  In Chimps’.  A Mr. Nathan Wolf the scientist that made the discovery said, “Malaria is genetically more complex than previously thought” then according to Wolf, “the eight novel malaria parasites his team found add chapters to the story about malaria and potentially widen the scope for creating an effective vaccine”.  Mr Wolf goes on to say “we’re just beginning to describe this iceberg; we know a lot of it is underwater”. 


It is safe to say, the prospect of developing an effective vaccine are slim to none, favoring the none side of the scale.  Why are so many resources being devoted to this dead end pursuit?  The Gates Foundation is reported to have committed to date, a total of two hundred and fifty million United States dollars ($250,000,000) for research on a malaria vaccine.  This money is enough to eliminate malaria in West Africa, if only it was dedicated to elimination of the mosquito, using proven, state of the art technology recently developed in the United States. 


Good intentions on the part of governments and NGO’s are not going to solve the problem.  Knowing how to deal directly with the cause of malaria, the mosquito, and not the symptoms is key to solving the perennial problem of malaria in Africa.  Good leadership is paramount to successfully accomplish this task.  At this time we have a classic case of the blind leading the blind in Africa, and we all know where they wind up, in the ditch.   


Hayford Siaw

Executive Director- VPWA (


The writer is a youth social entrepreneur base in Accra-Ghana. Founder of the non-profit organization (Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa (VPWA)), Young Entrepreneurs Network (YEN) and He has several published articles to his credit. His recent appearance was on CNBC Africa where he elaborated on issues of relevance to young African entrepreneurs.