Malaria will NOT be eradicated ‘with the tools we have today’, warns the World Health Organization
- The UN body said it is ‘unequivocally in favour’ of wiping out the deadly illness
- Figures show malaria kills around 435,000 people each year, mainly in Africa
- But the WHO warned it’s not possible to put a price or target date on eradication
Malaria will not be eradicated in the near future, the World Health Organization has said in a review of the life-threatening disease.
The UN body said it is ‘unequivocally in favour’ of wiping out the deadly illness, which kills around 435,000 people each year.
However, it has warned it is not yet possible to put a price tag or target date on eradicating the mosquito-borne disease.
Launching the findings of a three-year long analysis of the global fight against malaria, the WHO said wiping it out ‘can be done’.
The UN body said it is ‘unequivocally in favour’ of wiping out the deadly illness, which kills around 435,000 people each year
Dr Pedro Alonso, the body’s global malaria director, said: ‘With the tools that we have today, it is most unlikely that eradication could be achieved.’
He added that the world needs to focus on ‘getting back on track’ – progress in fighting malaria has stalled in the last two years.
Between 2000 and 2015, an ongoing drive to eliminate the disease saw worldwide malaria deaths drop from 864,000 to 429,000 per year.
Dr Alonso added: ‘The world is at a crossroads. Historical progress that has been achieved over the last decade is clearly slowing down.’
The WHO report predicts that even given its ‘most optimistic scenarios and projections… we will still have 11million cases in Africa in 2050.’
‘It is impossible to either set a target date for malaria eradication, formulate a reliable operational plan for malaria eradication or to give it a price tag,’ it added.
WHAT IS MALARIA?
Malaria is a life-threatening tropical disease spread by mosquitoes.
It is one of the world’s biggest killers, claiming the life of a child every two minutes, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Most of these deaths occur in Africa, where 250,000 youngsters die from the disease every year.
Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, of which five cause malaria.
The Plasmodium parasite is mainly spread by female Anopheles mosquitoes.
When an infected mosquito bites a person, the parasite enters their bloodstream.
- Feeling hot and shivery
- Muscle pain
These usually appear between a week and 18 days of infection, but can taken up to a year or occasionally even more.
People should seek medical attention immediately if they develop symptoms during or after visiting a malaria-affected area.
Malaria is found in more than 100 countries, including:
- Large areas of Africa and Asia
- Central and South America
- Haiti and the Dominican Republic
- Parts of the Middle East
- Some Pacific Islands
A blood test confirms a diagnosis.
In very rare cases, malaria can be spread via blood transfusions.
For the most part, malaria can be avoided by using insect repellent, wearing clothes that cover your limbs and using an insecticide-treated mosquito net.
Malaria prevention tablets are also often recommended.
Treatment, which involves anti-malaria medication, usually leads to a full recovery if done early enough.
Untreated, the infection can result in severe anaemia. This occurs when the parasites enter red blood cells, which then rupture and reduce the number of the cells overall.
And cerebral malaria can occur when the small blood vessels in the brain become blocked, leading to seizures, brain damage and even coma.
Source: NHS Choices
WHO has long grappled with the idea of erasing malaria from the planet. There are more than 200million cases every year.
An eradication campaign was first attempted in 1955 before being abandoned more than a dozen years later.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation threw considerable resources behind the idea in 2007, which led to new drugs and a vaccine.
However, Dr Alonso underlined that the current vaccine is only 40 per cent effective.
Smallpox is the only human disease to ever have been eradicated. In 1988, WHO and partners began a global campaign that aimed to wipe out polio by 2000.
Despite numerous effective vaccines and billions of invested dollars, efforts have stalled in recent years and officials have repeatedly missed eradication targets.
Although several African countries began immunizing children against malaria in national programs this year, the shot only protects about one third of children who get it.
‘An effective vaccine is something we desperately need if we’re ever going to get malaria under control and we just don’t have it,’ said Alister Lister, dean of biological sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
Dr Lister also raised concerns about whether malaria programs would be able to raise the billions needed given other competing eradication campaigns.
He said: ‘Should we really be pushing for malaria or should we concentrate on getting some of those other diseases out of the way first?’
Other experts agreed that eradicating malaria in the coming years seems aspirational.
‘It’s a long game and there will be many bumps on the road,’ said Sian Clarke, co-director of the malaria center at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Still, Dr Clarke said that eradication might only be achieved if there is a sense of urgency, given how malaria spreads.
‘The longer it takes, the more opportunity there is for the parasite to evolve,’ she said.
‘There will be a lot of pressure on the parasite to evolve a mechanism of survival, so this is something that if it’s to be done, should be done relatively quickly.’
Sub-Saharan Africa bears by far the greatest malaria burden with WHO data showing the region accounted for 90 percent of related deaths in 2018.
The UN agency said the illness hits the ‘most vulnerable – the very young and the poor’. Three in five malaria fatalities are children aged under five.
The report said $34billion (£27.86bn) must be invested between now and 2030 to fight malaria – but warned that funding has been ‘stagnant’ since 2010.
‘Freeing the world of malaria would be one of the greatest achievements in public health,’ WHO’s director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
‘With new tools and approaches we can make this vision a reality.’ The WHO said there was no ‘biological obstacles’ to prevent eradication.
MALARIA CONTROL IN AFRICA IS ‘AT RISK FROM THE SPREAD OF MULTI-DRUG RESISTANCE’
Malaria control in Africa is at risk from the spread of multi-drug resistance, scientists say.
A genomic study of malaria parasites on the continent found the genetic features of Plasmodium falciparum parasites that inhabit different regions of Africa.
This included the genetic factors that create resistance to anti-malarial drugs.
The research sheds new light on how resistance is emerging in different locations and moving across Africa, putting previous progress at risk.
Malaria remains a global problem, with the deadliest parasite species P. falciparum prevalent across sub-Saharan Africa.
The research by the Plasmodium Diversity Network Africa was published in the journal Science.
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