Healthin Southern Africa

Outbreak of pneumonic plague in Madagascar has Oxford scientists racing to develop vaccine

OXFORD, ENGLAND (The Southern African Times) – A plague outbreak has killed at least seven people in Madagascar, as U.K. scientists race to develop a new vaccine for the ancient killer. Dr. Fidiniana Randriantsarafara, director-general of preventive medicine, told local media this month that seven people had died and 22 were being treated for pneumonic plague, a form of the disease that affects the lungs.

The outbreak was recorded in the Itasy region in the central highlands of Madagascar late last month. The disease is endemic to the country, and the last outbreak in 2017 infected around 2,400 people and killed at least 209 people.

In the 14th century, the “Black Death,” a bubonic plague, killed up to 200 million people. Caused by a bacteria that spreads from rodents to fleas and onto humans, bubonic plague affects the lymph nodes but can then develop into the pneumonic strain — the most virulent form of the infectious disease.

Without treatment, the death rate for is almost 100 per cent. With treatment it falls to about 50 per cent. 

It comes as a team at Oxford University starts human trials of a plague vaccine. Led by Professor Christine Rollier, now at the University of Surrey, the team uses the same viral vector in its vaccine as in the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine.

Prof. Rollier said developing a vaccine was challenging because it is a bacterial infection. “I had a few people telling me it would never work,” she said.

However, she is hopeful of a breakthrough, particularly as the technology has been proven effective for humans.

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button