Malaria map raises concerns about different malaria strains

A recently unveiled malaria map raises new concerns about the disease that threaten to overshadow reports of declining malaria deaths and the progress towards a new vaccine.

Scientists believe a strain of malaria once believed to only be a minor threat is emerging as a major public health threat. Plasmodium vivax is more complex than Plasmodium falciparum and has yet to be fully targeted by vaccine researchers, according to

“Plasmodium vivax is very, very important, a big global public health problem. It kills people at much, much higher rates than was previously thought and there [are] actually more people at risk of vivax globally than there are of [plasmodium] P. falciparum," Pete Gething of Oxford University said, reports.

Gething is the lead researcher at the Malaria Atlas Project, an effort to track the prevalence of malaria globally. He says 2.8 million people are thought to be at risk from P. vivax and fears that the tools used to fight the strain remain ineffectual to non-existent.

“[An] Important fact about vivax is, it is not a large public health problem in Africa, where falciparum is predominant, Gething said, according to “Vivax is an important problem in those parts of the world where the area is very populous, so it's a very significant problem, for example, in India, Indonesia, and throughout much of central and south East Asia.

Experts also note that mosquito control measures like bed-netting are not nearly as effective because the mosquitoes that transmit P. vivax tend to bite their victims outside their homes.

The most effective drug currently available for P. vivax infection is called primaquine. Unfortunately, it has a 14 day regimen that may be difficult to follow for people living in the developing world. It also causes serious side effects in those with an inherited blood disorder common in regions where P. vivax is endemic.