Day 393 – Malaria News

And it’s good news.


I was involved (as a volunteer) in the (very) early stages of development of this vaccine in Oxford. But I was never actually given the vaccine: I was just given malaria because I was a positive control to check that someone challenged with the parasite would actually get malaria. A few notes on this:

Firstly, I was quite excited to be given, and experience, malaria. As a microbiologist in the UK, I had a proper professional interest in “exotic” “forrun” diseases. They were awesome to learn about and grow and diagnose. To actually have one was really cool.
Secondly, yes, I got paid for my time and effort. And discomfort.
Thirdly, you can’t be injected with malaria or take a pill to get it. You literally have to be bitten by an infected mosquito. Or in this case, five infected mosquitoes. They put them in a paper AMT espresso cup with some gauze over the top (so professional) and you pop them on your forearm in a very well sealed laboratory at a posh London University. Once they’ve all bitten you, they take them away and dissect the little bastards to check that they are carrying the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. You need 5 confirmed infected bites before they send you on your way.
We went straight to the pub.
Fourthly, there were thrice daily health checks at the local hospital (where I was working anyway) and an emergency number for any out of hours problems.
Fifthly, I was completely fine until day 10. That morning, I felt crap. They took my blood and I went to work. And then, ironically almost at the same moment as the Ghanaian blood microscopy expert rang through with a positive confirmation, I fell over in the CSF room. I ate a banana, was driven home, given a few doses of anti-malarials and recovered within 2 days.

I didn’t die. Which was nice.

Hopefully, this recent development will mean that a lot of other people won’t, too.