Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that affects vertebrates. Human malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, fatigue, vomiting, and headaches. In severe cases, it can cause jaundice, seizures, coma, or death. Symptoms usually begin 10 to 15 days after being bitten by an infected Anopheles mosquito. If not properly treated, people may have recurrences of the disease months later. In those who have recently survived an infection, reinfection usually causes milder symptoms. This partial resistance disappears over months to years if the person has no continuing exposure to malaria.

Human malaria is caused by single-celled microorganisms of the Plasmodium group. It is spread exclusively through bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. The mosquito bite introduces the parasites from the mosquito’s saliva into a person’s blood. parasites travel to the liver, where they mature and reproduce. Five species of Plasmodium commonly infect humans. The three species associated with more severe cases are P. falciparum (which is responsible for the vast majority of malaria deaths), P. vivax, and P. knowlesi (a simian malaria that spills over into thousands of people a year). P. ovale and P. malariae generally cause a milder form of malaria. Malaria is typically diagnosed by the microscopic examination of blood using blood films, or with antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests. Methods that use the polymerase chain reaction to detect the parasite’s DNA have been developed, but they are not widely used in areas where malaria is common, due to their cost and complexity.

The risk of disease can be reduced by preventing mosquito bites through the use of mosquito nets and insect repellents or with mosquito-control measures such as spraying insecticides and draining standing water. Several medications are available to prevent malaria for travellers in areas where the disease is common. Occasional doses of the combination medication sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine are recommended in infants and after the first trimester of pregnancy in areas with high rates of malaria. As of 2023, two malaria vaccines have been endorsed by the World Health Organization.The recommended treatment for malaria is a combination of antimalarial medications that includes artemisinin. The second medication may be either mefloquine, lumefantrine, or sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine. Quinine, along with doxycycline, may be used if artemisinin is not available. In areas where the disease is common, malaria should be confirmed if possible before treatment is started due to concerns of increasing drug resistance. Resistance among the parasites has developed to several antimalarial medications; for example, chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum has spread to most malarial areas, and resistance to artemisinin has become a problem in some parts of Southeast Asia.

The disease is widespread in the tropical and subtropical regions that exist in a broad band around the equator. This includes much of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In 2022, some 249 million cases of malaria worldwide resulted in an estimated 608000 deaths, with 80 percent being five years old or less. Around 95% of the cases and deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Rates of disease decreased from 2010 to 2014, but increased from 2015 to 2021. According to UNICEF, nearly every minute, a child under five died of malaria in 2021, and “many of these deaths are preventable and treatable”. Malaria is commonly associated with poverty and has a significant negative effect on economic development. In Africa, it is estimated to result in losses of US$12 billion a year due to increased healthcare costs, lost ability to work, and adverse effects on tourism. [From Wikinpedia article on Malaria]

A previous phase 1 trial showed that the use of a monoclonal antibody against Pasmodium falcparum. The May 2 issue of the NEJM Subcutaneous Administration of a Monoclonal Antibody to Prevent Malaria presents the result of a phase 2 study of the same antibody. Go here for definitions of of the three phases of drug testing.

The phase 2 trial was conducted in Mali to assess the safety and efficacy of subcutaneous administration of L9LS in children 6 to 10 years of age over a 6-month malaria season. In part A of the trial, safety was assessed at three dose levels in adults, followed by assessment at two dose levels in children. In part B of the trial, children were randomly assigned, in a 1:1:1 ratio, to receive 150 mg of L9LS, 300 mg of L9LS, or placebo. The primary efficacy end point, assessed in a time-to-event analysis, was the first P. falciparum infection, as detected on blood smear performed at least every 2 weeks for 24 weeks. A secondary efficacy end point was the first episode of clinical malaria, as assessed in a time-to-event analysis.

No safety concerns were identified in the dose-escalation part of the trial (part A). In part B, 225 children underwent randomization, with 75 children assigned to each group. No safety concerns were identified in part B. P. falciparum infection occurred in 36 participants (48%) in the 150-mg group, in 30 (40%) in the 300-mg group, and in 61 (81%) in the placebo group. The efficacy of L9LS against P. falciparum infection, as compared with placebo, was 66% (adjusted confidence interval [95% CI], 45 to 79) with the 150-mg dose and 70% (adjusted 95% CI, 50 to 82) with the 300-mg dose (P<0.001 for both comparisons). Efficacy against clinical malaria was 67% (adjusted 95% CI, 39 to 82) with the 150-mg dose and 77% (adjusted 95% CI, 55 to 89) with the 300-mg dose (P<0.001 for both comparisons).

Incidence of P falciparum

The authors conclude that subcutaneous administration of L9LS to children was protective against P. falciparum infection and clinical malaria over a period of 6 months and that this trial provides evidence to support the continued development of monoclonal antibodies as an additional tool to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality. Given the widespread morbidity and mortality of this scourge we can hope for its elimination before the last of those now alive passs from tthe scene. The complete article is below.