Image: Plasmodium vivax (yes, not falciparum) ring stage (top) and trophozoite (bottom), from http://tolweb.org/Plasmodium/68071
More has come out of the recent trumpeting of malaria vaccine successes in trials. There is a news piece in the current issue of Nature, detailing some concerns of other researchers in the value of publishing the preliminary (and partial) data – and the subsequent media frenzy that ensued.
I wrote previously about communication of scientific results (see koala post), and how it’s so important to get the right message across to journalists and the media. Context can change when someone with a lesser knowledge of the subject writes about it (she says as she writes about malaria immunology…), and in interviews people can sometimes get unwittingly drawn into misrepresenting their work. But it would seem from the analysis by Nature, that the recent malaria thing was partially due to the media picking up on a story and inflating it, but was due also (and importantly) to the research published being a little under-done. The data from the trials show that there is still a lot more work to do to improve the efficacy of this vaccine, and in particular – improving its efficacy in the target age group for receiving the vaccine. By publishing the data selectively, the authors and affiliated companies have provided a talking-point for their research. Of course one likes to see their research get in the news, but it feels a bit disingenuous when there are actually hundreds if not thousands of kids sick and dying from malaria right now.