Malaria’s having a moment, (as they say in fashion mags about a fad such as lace or spots). Apologies for the trite intro but it’s important to draw your reader in. In the past six weeks I’ve written four stories on the subject. Two were about a financing mechanism used by the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria to give people in developing countries access to cheaper malaria drugs. You can see my stories here and here.
The third was more positive (no sniping in this one) and it was about how researchers have developed an injectable formulation of the malaria parasite, making it easier for scientists to test potential drugs and, more importantly, vaccines on human volunteers. This was a very science-y piece and it did make me wonder how I, who got a C in O level biology, has ended up writing about this stuff.
The other story was about a previously promising malaria vaccine, which has not proved as effective as hoped in clinical trials. It got me thinking about the book I’m reading at the moment, Goodbye to All That, poet Robert Graves’ memoir of his time in the trenches during World War One. (Look at my copy above, in all its 1960s glory – filched from my parents’ bookshelf). We often talk about battling, fighting and combating diseases, such as malaria and in the book Graves describes a bet between Captain Furber ‘the greatest pessimist in France’ and an adjutant. Furber bets that the trench lines won’t move more than a mile in two years and, of course, Furber ends up winning.
Finding a vaccine against a disease like malaria must feel like trench warfare for the scientists and researchers on the frontline. You move a bit further forward and then something knocks you back. I won’t be betting on a definitive vaccine in two years time but hopefully we’re a few steps closer. It will be over by Christmas (2020).