Many of the global health successes in the past century can be attributed to the use of vaccines in the global community. While there are many regions of the world still plagued with preventable diseases, scientists are busy trying to create even more vaccines. There have been ideas tossed around for HIV and malaria vaccines, but now scientists are trying to create a vaccine for malnutrition.
As one of the most widespread ailments, nearly one-third of the global population is estimated to have some degree of malnutrition. Among the most afflicted are women and children. In many poor areas, hookworm infection is one of the primary causes of malnutrition. The hookworm take nutrients from the infected patients and, if left untreated, can result in severe malnutrition, stunted development, and hemorrhaging.
There is a strong correlation between poverty and hookworm infection, and the hope is that a vaccine could help alleviate some of the malnutrition causes. The effects of creating a successful vaccine are projected to impact the economy of the region as well. Since malnutrition and the subsequent health problems associated with it limit productivity and stunt the employable population, the vaccine hopes to expand economic and social potential.
One of the hindrances in developing the vaccine, though, is the limited applicability perceived by major pharmaceutical companies. Because the vaccine would be used primarily in many poor, underdeveloped nations, pharmaceutical companies are deterred by the low economic profit opportunities. As the vaccine is being developed, the funding of nonprofit organizations is pushing it through research and development stages.
One of the major supporters of this vaccine is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The difference between the current method of treatment and the proposed passive vaccine is the longer lasting effects. One treatment of the vaccine lasts significantly longer and would cost less in the long term.
While the reality of the vaccine is a while out, the prospect provides a new generation of hope in the medical community for curbing malnutrition.
– Kristin Ronzi