ASBMB Today: The other malaria parasite
Researchers turn their attention to Plasmodium vivax, an ill-understood parasite that causes most malaria cases outside of Africa.
By Rajendrani Mukhopadhyay
The year 2010 saw 216 million cases of malaria and an estimated 655,000 deaths from the disease, according to the World Health Organization’s 2011 World Malaria Report. Ninety-one percent of the deaths occurred in tropical regions of Africa, and an overwhelming 86 percent of the dead were children under 5 years old. The most likely culprit of those cases was the parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Given its lethality, much research has been done over the past 40 years to try to wipe out the pathogen.
But P. falciparum is not the only parasite that causes deadly malaria: Plasmodium vivax is another that puts about 3 billion people living in other parts of the world at risk of contracting malaria. But because of the intense focus on P. falciparum’s ravages in Africa, malaria researchers say efforts to understand P. vivax malaria have been sorely neglected.