Guest editor: Prof James Beeson
Malaria is present in over 100 countries worldwide, including large areas of South America, Africa and Southeast Asia, and it is estimated that over 40% of the world’s population is at risk of infection. The disease is caught through the bite of an infected mosquito carrying plasmodium parasites in its saliva. It is estimated that malaria caused 627 000 deaths in 2012; infections caused by Plasmodium falciparum are the most severe and have the highest mortality rate, but Plasmodium vivax is increasingly recognized as an important cause of clinical symptoms.
Antimalarial drugs can be used to prevent and treat malaria, but parasites frequently develop resistance to these agents. Continued research aims to understand the mechanisms of resistance, develop new antimalarial drugs, and identify the best way to prevent being bitten by an infected mosquito. There is currently no licensed vaccine for malaria, although a number of candidate agents are currently being evaluated, and the World Health Organization aims to license vaccines against P. falciparum and P. vivax malaria for use in endemic areas by 2030. Understanding the mechanisms of naturally-acquired malaria immunity is essential to inform vaccine design; many studies are currently underway to explore these immunological mechanisms and identify promising vaccine candidates.
This article collection in BMC Medicine aims to highlight recent progress in all areas of malaria research, including vaccine development, investigations into new antimalarial agents, vector control and disease epidemiology.