The motto of this year’s World Malaria Day, April 25, is ” Innovations to reduce the burden of malaria and save lives “. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), no tool of the current range will alone solve the problem of malaria. The WHO is therefore calling for new diagnostics, new antimalarial drugs and other tools to accelerate progress against this disease.
While malaria steadily declined between 2000 and 2015, progress has slowed or even stagnated in recent years, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. This potentially deadly disease is caused by parasites transmitted by infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Although preventable and treatable, malaria continues to devastate the health and livelihoods of people around the world. In 2020, the WHO counted 241 million new cases and 627,000 malaria-related deaths in 85 countries. The African region of WHO bears a disproportionate share of the global malaria burden. 95% of cases and 96% of deaths from the disease have been recorded in Africa. Children under the age of 5 accounted for 80% of all deaths.
RTS,S, the first vaccine against malaria
In October 2021, the WHO recommended widespread vaccination of children in areas with moderate to high malaria transmission. This recommendation is based on the results of a pilot program currently being coordinated by WHO in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, which has benefited more than 900,000 children since 2019 RTS, pthe first vaccine ever recommended against a parasitic disease, represents a major scientific advance. Evidence has shown that it is safe and reduces severe forms of malaria.
Along with advances in vaccination, bed nets treated with a new type of insecticide have almost halved cases of childhood malaria in a large study in Tanzania, according to a study published in The lancetwhich raises hopes for a new weapon in the fight against this disease.
Bed nets have been instrumental in the tremendous strides the world has made against malaria over the past few decades, saving millions of lives. But progress has stalled in recent years, partly because the mosquitoes that spread the infection have increasingly developed resistance to the insecticide used in existing nets. In randomized trials of more than 4,500 children aged 6 months to 14 years, bed nets impregnated with chlorfenapyr and pyrethroids reduced the prevalence of malaria by 43% and 37% in the first and second years, respectively, compared to conventional bed nets impregnated with only pyrethroid coated. Chlorfenapyr works differently than pyrethroid, it immobilizes mosquitoes and renders them unable to bite. The chemical was first proposed against malaria 20 years ago and has been used to control pests since the 1990s.
Mosquito nets coated with insecticides are an effective way to reduce malaria infections. (Photo: Reuters)
These nets are slightly more expensive than current nets, at about $3 each, but the researchers said the savings in prevention outweighed the initial cost increase. The nets are being tested in Benin to study their effectiveness in a different context, which could lead to their recommendation by the WHO.
Although the path to elimination is unique in each country, common success factors have been observed. ” Success is primarily the result of political commitment to ending the disease ‘ said Dright Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Program. ” This commitment results in domestic funding that is often sustained for decades, even after a country has eradicated malaria. “, he added. Robust data systems are also critical to success, as is strong community engagement.