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Plasmodium vivax: who cares?

DOI: 10.1186/1475-2875-7-s1-s9

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More attention is being focused on malaria today than any time since the world's last efforts to achieve eradication over 40 years ago. The global community is now discussing strategies aimed at dramatically reducing malarial disease burden and the eventual eradication of all types of malaria, everywhere. As a consequence, Plasmodium vivax, which has long been neglected and mistakenly considered inconsequential, is now entering into the strategic debates taking place on malaria epidemiology and control, drug resistance, pathogenesis and vaccines. Thus, contrary to the past, the malaria research community is becoming more aware and concerned about the widespread spectrum of illness and death caused by up to a couple of hundred million cases of vivax malaria each year. This review brings these issues to light and provides an overview of P. vivax vaccine development, then and now. Progress had been slow, given inherent research challenges and minimal support in the past, but prospects are looking better for making headway in the next few years. P. vivax, known to invade the youngest red blood cells, the reticulocytes, presents a strong challenge towards developing a reliable long-term culture system to facilitate needed research. The P. vivax genome was published recently, and vivax researchers now need to coordinate efforts to discover new vaccine candidates, establish new vaccine approaches, capitalize on non-human primate models for testing, and investigate the unique biological features of P. vivax, including the elusive P. vivax hypnozoites. Comparative studies on both P. falciparum and P. vivax in many areas of research will be essential to eradicate malaria. And to this end, the education and training of future generations of dedicated "malariologists" to advance our knowledge, understanding and the development of new interventions against each of the malaria species infecting humans also will be essential.


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