World Malaria Day.
Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease that continues to have a devastating impact on the health and livelihood of people around the world. In 2020, there were an estimated 241 million new cases of malaria and 627 000 malaria-related deaths in 85 countries. More than two thirds of deaths were among children under the age of 5 living in the WHO African Region. Despite steady advances in lowering the global burden of malaria between 2000 and 2015, progress has slowed or stalled in recent years, particularly in high burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Numerous achievements had been made in various areas relating to Malaria disease control, whether in R&D for diagnosis or treatment or community policies and drives. The Malaria Vaccine RTS,S was first proved to be safe for use in April 2019, on October 21st WHO recommended for the expanded use of RTS,S among children living with moderate to severe Malaria transmission and so far over 1 million children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have received one or more doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine. RTS,S is a first-generation vaccine that could be complemented in the future by other vaccines with similar or higher efficacy. WHO welcomes progress in the development of R21/Matrix-M and other malaria vaccine candidates in early clinical development. The successful completion of clinical trials for these vaccines will be important to assess their safety and efficacy profiles.
In the field of vector control, a number of new tools and technologies have been submitted to WHO for evaluation. These include, for example, new types of insecticide-treated nets, spatial mosquito repellents, gene-drive approaches and sugar baits designed to attract and kill Anopheles mosquitoes.
WHO has reported other pressing threats in the fight against malaria, such as drug resistance, mosquito resistance to insecticides, an invasive malaria vector that thrives in urban and rural areas, and the emergence and spread of mutated P. falciparum parasites that are undermining the effectiveness of rapid diagnostic tests. Innovation in tools and strategies will be critical to contain these threats, together with a more strategic use of the tools that are available today.
The world made remarkable gains against malaria in the period 2000–2015, but the progress plateaued, and this troubling slowdown was exacerbated by COVID-19. According to WHO’s latest World malaria report, 2020 saw a rise in the global burden of malaria, with an estimated 627 000 deaths and 241 million new cases of the disease.
Getting back on track, and meeting WHO’s targets of a 90% reduction in malaria case incidence and mortality rates by 2030, will require renewed global attention, increased funding, and continued research and development of new interventions, among other actions.
PROTIP: Look out for Promea ProFlow Malaria Pf/PV and Malaria Pf/Pan rapid test devices launching soon providing accurate results for the preliminary differential detection of Malaria infection.