There are many species of malaria parasites. P. falciparum is the major species worldwide and is prevalent in Africa, but P. vivax is more common in South America, Asia and Thailand. Globally, 53% of P. vivax cases occur in Southeast Asia.
While there has been significant progress towards eradicating P. falciparum, there is still no vaccine to prevent P. Vivax.
Vivax malaria is difficult to treat and control. This is due to the parasite's ability to remain dormant in the liver, which can cause multiple episodes of malaria, even after successful treatment. These 'relapses' can occur months to years after the initial infection.
The recurring illness has significant physiological impacts.
P. vivax infection during pregnancy has been linked to low birth weight of the baby, and infection during early childhood has been linked to delayed neurologic and cognitive development, lower school performance, and short-term impairment of memory and language.
Combined with detrimental health impacts, emerging drug-resistant malaria strains pose an urgent need to develop new therapeutics to combat P. vivax malaria in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia.