Mortality from malaria has remained a nagging global issue with health workers and all stakeholders, including governments. In celebrating the 2016 World Malaria Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that nearly half of the world population, 3.2billion people, faced the risk of malaria. WHO stated that more than 400,000 people died from the disease last year, while about 214 million new cases of the disease were reported in 95 countries the same year.
It is these grim statistics that put in perspective the recent feat by Professor Nasiu Shua’ibu, a lecturer at the Biochemical Parasitology Department of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Professor Shua’ibu has developed a new vaccine to prevent increasing rate of deaths from malaria fever.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Zaria, Kaduna State, on Tuesday, Shu’aibu said the new Malaria vaccine was different from others currently in use.
Shu’aibu, who is currently working with the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Japan, said the result of the research on the new vaccine would soon be out for Nigerians to use.
“In a simple term that a layman can understand, the content of this Malaria vaccine research is difficult, but let me try if I could simplify it, it is called DNA Vaccine.
“It is a new technology for discovery and delivery of vaccine against any infectious disease that was developed in the early to mid 1990s.
“The DNA of the Malaria parasite was extracted and the portion of the DNA that is tested to be a good vaccine candidate is subjected to molecular biology methods which are used to produce a lot of the DNA,” Shu’aibu said.
According to him, the amount of DNA from the Malaria parasite was very minute in quantity and to expand the quantity, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) was used.
“Then a method of cloning is now used to insert the DNA into a vehicle that will carry the DNA into either animal or human body.
“It is then injected into the body of the animal or human and it eventually enters the cells of the animal in the same way a virus enters and infects cells.
“The injected DNA now uses the cells in the body to produce chemicals that will prevent Malaria from infecting the body,” Shu’aibu said.
He said the vaccine was different from any of the licensed vaccines like polio and other EPI vaccines.
Shu’aibu added that the approach was also different from the other Malaria vaccine (RTS,S/AS01) that was likely to be licensed, but the goals were the same, to control and eventually eliminate Malaria.
He observed that Nigeria with an estimated population of over 170 million constituted the highest Malaria burden in Africa and in the world.
Shu’aibu doubted the figures from the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) indicating progress in containing the disease.
“I still doubt; the tools currently used to fight Malaria are not sufficient to have a substantial and sustained impact that is needed to resolve the Malaria crisis in Nigeria,” he said.
Shu’aibu stressed the need to monitor the growing resistance to anti-Malarial drugs and insecticides.
He said if not checked and documented, it would jeopardise years of global public health success and investments in Malaria control.