Anyone who has spoken with me for more than 3 minutes about my career - and its accompanying occupational hazards - knows that I am afraid of malaria.
Classmates make fun of me. Colleagues find me paranoid. I find that writhing in pain, vomiting and drifting in and out of consciousness for 14 days would be un-enjoyable and un-Shannon-like. So I will continue to lather on deet, pop overpriced meds and sleep under my stuffy bed net.
Today, I read this story in the Washington Post and felt pangs of public health euphoria:
"In a daring experiment in Europe, scientists used mosquitoes as flying needles to deliver a "vaccine" of live malaria parasites through their bites. The results were astounding: Everyone in the vaccine group acquired immunity to malaria; everyone in a non-vaccinated comparison group did not, and developed malaria when exposed to the parasites later.
The study was only a small proof-of-principle test, and its approach is not practical on a large scale. However, it shows that scientists may finally be on the right track to developing an effective vaccine against one of mankind's top killers. A vaccine that uses modified live parasites just entered human testing."
When I read the above paragraphs to a Kenyan colleague, who happens to be a former CDC employee, he laughed a deep belly laugh and said, "Wait! Hang on a minute. How did the Europeans find volunteers to get malaria?!?!!"