Malaria: Innovating to save lives – Health – Health

World Malaria Day, April 25, is this year under the theme ” Innovating to reduce the burden of malaria and save lives “. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), no tool in the current palette will alone solve the problem of malaria. WHO is therefore calling for new diagnostics, new antimalarial drugs and other tools to accelerate progress against this disease.

While malaria declined steadily between 2000 and 2015, progress has slowed or even stagnated in recent years, particularly in sub-Saharan African countries. This potentially fatal disease is caused by parasites transmitted by infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Although preventable and treatable, malaria continues to have devastating consequences on 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 WHO African Region bears a disproportionately large share of the global malaria burden. 95% of cases and 96% of deaths from the disease have been recorded in Africa. Children under 5 accounted for 80% of all deaths.

RTS,S, the first antimalarial vaccine

In October 2021, 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 coordinated by WHO in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, which has benefited more than 900,000 children since 2019. The RTS,S, which is the first vaccine ever recommended against a parasitic disease, represents a great scientific advance. Evidence has shown it to be safe and to reduce severe forms of malaria.

Along with advances in vaccination, bed nets treated with a new type of insecticide nearly halved cases of malaria in children in a large trial in Tanzania, according to a study published in The Lancetraising hopes for a new weapon in the fight against this disease.

Bed nets have been instrumental in the vast progress the world has made in recent decades against malaria, with millions of lives saved. But progress has stalled in recent years, in part 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% for the first and the second. second year respectively, compared to traditional mosquito nets which are coated only with pyrethroids. Chlorfenapyr works differently than pyrethroid, immobilizing mosquitoes and making them unable to bite. The chemical was first proposed against malaria 20 years ago and has been used for pest control since the 1990s.

Insecticide-coated mosquito nets are an effective tool in reducing malaria infections. (Photo: Reuters)

These nets are slightly more expensive than current nets, at around $3 per item, but the researchers said the savings in case prevention outweighed the initial increase in expense. The nets will be tested in Benin to study their effectiveness in a different context, which could lead to their recommendation by the WHO.

Although each country’s path to elimination is unique, common success factors have been observed. ” Success is first and foremost the result of political commitment to ending the disease “said the D.r Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. ” This commitment translates into domestic funding that is often sustained for decades, even after a country has eliminated malaria. “, he added. Robust data systems are also critical to success, as is strong community engagement.

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