New Delhi: Malaria continues to be one of the world’s deadliest diseases, killing one child every two minutes. According to WHO statistics, worldwide, the mosquito-borne infectious disease claims 4,35,000 people a year. World Malaria Day, celebrated on April 25 every year, seeks to raise awareness about malaria and recognise global efforts to control the life-threatening disease. The theme for World Malaria Day 2019 is ‘Zero malaria starts with me’. Meanwhile, in a landmark pilot programme, the world’s first malaria vaccine has been launched by the Government of Malawi on April 23.
WHO’s latest World malaria report stated that no significant gains were made in reducing malaria cases in the period 2015 to 2017. This year’s campaign aims to keep malaria high on the political agenda and mobilise additional resources to fight against the disease. The grassroots campaign also aims to empower communities to take ownership of malaria prevention and care.
With nearly half the world’s population being at risk of malaria, it is extremely necessary that countries take some urgent action to help drive progress in the global malaria fight. Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites that are spread through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called ‘malaria vector’.
How are blood groups linked to the progression of malaria?
While there are strategies to help prevent and reduce the risk of malaria, a recent study suggests people with blood type O have better chances of protection against severe malaria than people with other blood types. The recent analysis of 23 studies showed that 15 had an increased chance of severe P. falciparum infection among individuals with blood group A, B, AB or non-O (A/B/AB). The researchers also observed that more than half of the studies suggested that severe malaria was significantly more likely to occur among individuals with non-O blood groups.
“Now that we are starting to understand the mechanisms of how blood type can affect the progression of the disease, we are exploring various options that can one day help people in the regions where malaria is endemic,” co-author and epidemiologist Abraham Degarege Mengist from Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work was quoted as saying by Science alert.
And one such option could be the transfusion of type O blood to those with malaria, an idea that may potentially halt the progression of this deadly infection, said the study published in Blood Reviews.
Earlier, a 2015 study included in this review reported that people with blood group A are more vulnerable to severe malaria.
Meanwhile, there are far more people with blood type O in sub-Saharan Africa, where severe malaria is endemic, than anywhere in Europe or the US, said the report. It may be noted that WHO African Region continues to shoulder more than 90% of the global malaria burden, and the region was home to 92% of malaria cases and 93% of malaria deaths in 2017.
The researchers hope the new findings could help in tackling the most fatal form of malaria, particularly if the transfusion of type O blood can somehow exert this protective, de-clumping effect on those with non-O blood types.