Looking Back, Looking ForwardPlasmodium falciparum has received the bulk of attention in the press and in receiving funding support in recent years. However, the research effort against P. vivax has been significant, because this parasite continues to present major challenges to health workers in Southeast Asia, in the Southwest Pacific region, in South America, and in other isolated regions of the world.
Golgi (1886) was the first to recognize that there were three different types of malaria parasites of humans based on their different developmental cycles. However, Grassi and Feletti (1890) finally gave it the specific name: (“C’est pour cela quenous distinguons, dans le genre Haemamoeba, trios espèces (H malariae de la fièvre quarte, H. vivax de la fièvre tierce et H. praecox de la fièvre quotidienne avec courtes intermittences etc.).)”
The emergence of chloroquine resistance in the western Pacific region and the many reports of primaquine tolerance/resistance have presented increased challenges for treatment. Molecular differences between different isolates regarding CS repeat sequences, and variations between blood stage isolates, have presented extra challenges in the development of successful diagnostic and vaccine agents.
However, significant research milestones and discoveries are evident. During World War II and the Korean War, P. vivax was of greatest concern because the of the parasite’s prominence in the South Pacific and Korean zones. Thus, much was learned about parasites from these regions and their relapse patterns and drug susceptibilities.
Short and Garnham (1948) demonstrated the tissue stages in the liver of a human volunteer and this eventually led to our understanding of the origin of relapse. Porter and Young (1966) reported the adaptation of P. vivax to develop in New World monkeys. This opened up a whole new era of immunologic, chemotherapeutic and biologic studies in these hosts that has resulted in the discovery and development new diagnostic tools and drugs.
In December 2005, The Institute for Genomic Research announced the completion of the P. vivax genome sequence. Under the direction of Jane Carlton, with financial support from the NIH and purified P. vivax DNA supplied by CDC, this project represents a major progression in the research on this parasite. Hopefully, the millions of people who are infected each year with this disease will eventually receive the benefit of this effort.
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