Malaria (another name for malaria), which is World Day on Monday, April 25, caused the deaths of 627,000 people worldwide in 2020, according to an estimate by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The number of deaths has increased by 12% in 12 months, mainly due to “disruptions” in access to care related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
50% of the world population affected
Half of the world’s population is threatened by malaria. According to the WHO, 241 million cases of malaria were registered worldwide in 2020.
Risk areas are the eastern Mediterranean, the Pacific zone, America and Southeast Asia.
In June 2021, the disease was officially declared eradicated after four years without native cases in China, when that country recorded 30 million cases a year in the 1940s.
The vast majority of cases (95%) and deaths (96%) occur in Africa: This region, which kills 260,000 children each year, “carries a large and disproportionate part of the global burden of malaria”, laments the WHO.
Just over half of the world’s registered cases occur in four African countries: Nigeria (31.9% of cases in 2020), Democratic Republic of the Congo (13.2%), Tanzania (4.1%) and Mozambique (3 ,8th %).
Children under 5 years old
“Children under the age of five are the group most affected by malaria,” says the WHO.
In 2020, 80% of malaria deaths on the African continent were in children under the age of five.
Five types of parasites
Malaria is a very old disease, known since ancient times. It is manifested by fever, headache, and muscle aches, then by cycles of chills, fever, and sweating.
A total of five species of parasites of the genus Plasmodium are responsible for this disease, all of which are transmitted by mosquito bites.
Plasmodium falciparum is the most pathogenic species and is responsible for fatal cases. It occurs in the tropical zones of Africa, Latin America and Asia.
Preventive and curative treatments
There are different types of preventive and curative treatments.
Early diagnosis and treatment reduce the intensity of the disease, prevent deaths, and limit transmission.
“We now know that we have to fight malaria better explains Dr. Philippe Duneton, Executive Director of UNITAID, We need to focus on the countries with the highest number of cases, especially in Africa. We must help these countries to have different tools adapted to their epidemiological situation.
According to the WHO, “The best available treatment, particularly for Plasmodium falciparum malaria, is artemisinin-based combination therapy.”
Preventive treatments are also urgently recommended for pregnant women and small children who live in risk areas, as well as for travelers to these regions.
“Vector control” of the transmitting mosquito is also an important response to the disease, with WHO recommending the use of insecticide-treated bed nets.
A vaccine recommended by the WHO
A vaccine developed by British pharmaceutical company GSK called “RTS,S” targets the most dangerous species of Plasmodium, P. falciparum.
According to positive studies conducted since spring 2019 in Malawi, Ghana and Kenya – where more than a million children have now received at least one dose of this vaccine – among children living in sub-Saharan Africa and in risk areas.
This pilot vaccination program showed that the “RTS,S” vaccine was safe and “significantly reduced severe cases” of the disease, the WHO said in a statement on Thursday.
More than $155 million has been mobilized by the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) to enable delivery of these vaccines, the organization said.
Other vaccines could come onto the market in the coming years, including Matrix-M, developed by the University of Oxford, which studies have shown to be very effective.