In the past decade, malaria transmission was substantially reduced across sub-Saharan Africa due to such global efforts as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria, the U.S. Presidents’ Malaria Initiative and the Roll Back Malaria partnership. In fact 3.3 million lives have been saved since 2000. But now is not the time for the global public health community to rest on its laurels.
A new commentary published Feb. 20 in The Lancet notes that 57% of Africans still live in malaria endemic areas. Authors Brian Greenwood of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Kwadwo Koram of Ghana’s Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research point to an article from the same issue of The Lancet that shows the fragile gains in malaria control and prevention are in fact “modest.”
“These gains are threatened by emerging resistance to the pyrethroid group of insecticides and by the potential appearance of artemisinin-resistant malaria parasites in Africa,” the authors say. “More could be done to improve malaria control in high-risk countries by increasing coverage with proven interventions such as insecticide-treated nets and chemoprevention.”
Greenwood and Koram also take issue with the growing call for malaria elimination.
“A focus on elimination must not result in a reduction in support for development of new methods (drugs, insecticides, vaccines, and new approaches to vector control), and improved delivery methods, which will be needed in large areas of sub-Saharan Africa before malaria transmission can be reduced to the level at which elimination becomes a credible prospect,” they conclude.
The fragile gains made thus far against malaria must be maintained, because any resurgence would mean the needless loss of too many lives.