The majority of malaria cases are caused by two parasites, Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. P. falciparum most commonly causes malaria in humans and is thus the main target of malaria elimination efforts. Because the behavior of P. falciparum is easier to understand from a biological perspective, it is easier to control and treat, and there has been significant global progress in controlling the parasite.
However, the less common Plasmodium vivax (P. vivax) parasite is still a force to be reckoned with: 2.6 billion people are currently at risk of contracting this form of malaria, with the largest disease burdens found in India, Indonesia, Brazil, and Ethiopia. There is also less known about the life of the P. vivax parasite, which presents a challenge to the development of effective control measures, and by extension, for malaria elimination as a whole. Because of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) has made P. vivax prevention and control a priority in advance of the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria Control and Elimination (2016–2025).
Held last May, the Advances in Plasmodium vivax Malaria Research conference aimed at sharing the latest data to fill knowledge gaps that would help shed light on P. vivax and bring scientists closer to identifying effective control measures.
A challenging feature of the P. vivax parasite is its ability to lie dormant in the liver and cause multiple relapses of disease due to (as yet) unidentified triggers. The research presented at the conference included novel modeling to understand the parasite’s behavior, large scale approaches to treatment, options for new drugs (due to increasing resistance to chloroquine), and thinking ahead to vaccine clinical trials.
For the meeting report and other resources from the conference, click here.