News and events

Expert opinion

The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked great interest in the mathematical models used to estimate disease transmission in the population. These models have figured prominently in the decisions of many governments, as they can help project the course of the disease, allocate people and resources, and  evaluate the impact of policies. But models - though undoubtedly valuable -  are not crystal balls; they are only as good as the available information.
At a record pace, the first new vaccines were developed and entered the market in less than a year since the sequencing of the new SARS-CoV-2 virus. This astonishing achievement was made partially possible due to decades of basic research targeting the underlying biology of similar coronaviruses, and earlier clinical development efforts with the utilised vaccine platform technologies.
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites, the most prevalent and deadly of which is Plasmodium falciparum (accounting for 97% cases worldwide, according to WHO). While there is a vaccine candidate, called RTS,S, it is only 30-40% effective. There are many different ways of designing vaccines. ‘Sub-unit vaccines’ are based on a component of pathogen – the organism that causes the disease. For example, the RTS,S vaccine is based on a pathogen-derived protein, P. falciparum’s circumsporozoite protein (CSP).
The remarkable transition general practitioners have made to predominantly remote and telephone consultations is to be applauded. Yet this has brought its own challenges which may have meant that less serious health conditions have gone untreated. Many patients will have had understandable fears about the risk of infection or burdening the health service. Others may lack the digital access or skills to join a remote appointment.