Currently no malaria vaccine is available, and malaria prevention involves the use of malaria treatments in advance of a person's travels. This is known as malaria prophylaxis, and this is used in conjunction with mosquito nets and insecticides to minimise a person's risk of transmission of the malaria parasite. However, research has revealed that a malaria vaccination might not be as far off as we think.
In the absence of a malaria vaccine, people can use malaria treatments for malaria prophylaxis. These treatments need to be taken before you leave on your holiday and continued afterwards. This is to ensure that enough medication has built up in your system beforehand, to be able to deal with the parasite in case you get bitten, in a similar way to a malaria vaccine. The reason the treatment needs to be continued afterwards is to ensure that, should transmission have occurred, the parasite is completely removed from the system before treatment is stopped.
Antimalarials are usually very effective between 90% and 100% at preventing malaria, however not all treatments can be taken in all the world's malaria areas.
Research into malaria vaccinations
It's believed that the development of a malaria vaccine could save hundreds of thousands of lives each year, in particular in impoverished countries where the parasite is most common. It's believed that a malaria vaccine could be a possibility within the next couple of years with many potential malaria vaccines currently being trialled to evaluate their efficacy.
At the end of last year researchers from Oxford managed to uncover information into how malaria manages to enter red blood cells which could be hugely beneficial in the development of new malaria vaccines, however an earlier malaria vaccination known as RTS,S has shown that it's been effective in over half of cases during clinical trials. The RTS,S malaria vaccination has taken around 25 years to develop, however there are those who believe more effective malaria vaccines should be developed.
Other methods of malaria prevention
Until malaria vaccination is developed malaria treatments can be used alongside other anti-bite measures, such as mosquito nets and insect repellents. Antimalarials may be extremely effective, but it's important to still take steps to avoid actually being bitten. This could be to wear protective clothing, sleep under the protection of a mosquito net and to avoid opening windows when it starts getting dark.
Who is most at risk of developing malaria?
Almost everyone who is from an area where malaria isn't common is at risk. People who are not immune to the condition and who live in areas where the disease is endemic are also at risk. People with a weakened immune system who live in malaria areas are also at risk; this includes young children, people with HIV and AIDS and pregnant women.
Although there is not a malaria vaccine, these groups should make use of the antimalarial medications available to ensure that they are protected against some of the most severe malaria parasites.