World Malaria Day: WHO report shows progress toward widespread eradication

Although nearly half of the world’s population remains at risk for malaria, a recent WHO report indicated that eliminating the disease in numerous regions of the world is possible, according to a press release.

WHO reported, for the first time, no indigenous cases of malaria in the European Region in 2015. In 2014, eight countries outside this region also reported zero cases, including Argentina, Costa Rica, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates.

The “Global Technical Strategy for Malaria,” ratified by the World Health Assembly last year, calls for the eradication of local malaria transmission in at least 10 countries by 2020. However, WHO estimates in its 2015 World Malaria report that more than 20 countries may be able to reach this goal, including six countries in Africa where there is a high disease burden. The ultimate goal is to eliminate malaria transmission in at least 35 countries by 2030.  

“Our report shines a spotlight on countries that are well on their way to eliminating malaria,” Pedro L. Alonso, MD, PhD, director of WHO’s global malaria program, said in the release. “WHO commends these countries while also highlighting the urgent need for greater investment in settings with high rates of malaria transmission, particularly in Africa. Saving lives must be our first priority.”

According to the report, worldwide malaria-related deaths have declined by 60% since 2000. In Africa, mortality declined by 66% among all age groups and 71% among children aged younger than 5 years. WHO attributed these declines with the use of insecticide-treated bed-nets, indoor residual spraying, rapid diagnostic testing and artemisinin-based combination treatments. The emergence of mosquito resistance to insecticides and antimalarial therapies, however, threatens recent progress. Therefore, WHO is calling for an increase in funding, from $2.5 billion to an estimated $8.7 billion annually by 2030, to develop new tools and improve the efficacy of existing technologies. The agency also stressed that government leadership in disease surveillance is key to malaria eradication.

“New technologies must go hand in hand with strong political and financial commitment,” Alonso said.

To mark the occasion of World Malaria Day, observed annually on April 25, Infectious Disease News has compiled a list of the top five stories in malaria during the past year.

Alternative preventive therapy, RDTs show promise against resistant malaria in pregnant women

As the prevalence of malaria resistant to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine increases, alternative strategies — such as preventive artemisinin combination therapy containing dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine or rapid diagnostic test-and-treat — may provide pregnant women protection from infection, according to two recently published studies. Read more.

Ivermectin interrupts malaria transmission in mosquitoes

PHILADELPHIA — Newly presented findings suggested that ivermectin is active against multiple strains of malaria and may be capable of interrupting transmission of the disease.

Ivermectin, a broad-spectrum antiparasitic agent, was initially explored for its ability to reduce parasitic infection in animals. The treatment effectively treats onchoceriasis, lymphatic filariasis and several types of soil-transmitted helminths, and recently was recognized by the Nobel Prize Committee for its role in reducing these parasitic diseases worldwide. Read more.

Diagnosis, treatment of malaria in US travelers hampered during Ebola outbreak

Fear of infection during the height of the Ebola outbreak may have delayed diagnosis and treatment of malaria among travelers returning to the United States from the affected region, according to case data highlighted in MMWR. These delays often were the result of health care and lab workers refusing to handle the patients’ blood until reassured there would be no risk for Ebola transmission, the CDC researchers wrote. Read more.

Mefloquine malaria treatment during pregnancy not harmful to newborns

Preventive treatment of malaria during pregnancy with mefloquine did not adversely affect early development in newborns when compared with treatment using sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, according to research in PLOS Medicine. Study results showed no significant differences in nutritional outcomes, psychomotor development or morbidity in either treatment group. Read more.

Malaria retreatment safe, effective against subsequent episodes

The antimalarial medication Pyramax appeared to be equally safe and efficacious during the first treatment vs. retreatment of subsequent malaria episodes, according to the results of a phase 3b/4 trial.

In a related commentary, Sabine Bélard, MD, MSc, of the pediatric pneumology and immunology department and Florian Kurth, MD, MSc, of the infectious diseases and pneumology department at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin, said the results are “highly reassuring;” however, the safety of pyronaridine-artesunate needs further examination in patients with liver diseases, those with elevated liver enzymes and patients with HIV. Read more.

For more information: World Malaria Report 2015

Although nearly half of the world’s population remains at risk for malaria, a recent WHO report indicated that eliminating the disease in numerous regions of the world is possible, according to a press release.

WHO reported, for the first time, no indigenous cases of malaria in the European Region in 2015. In 2014, eight countries outside this region also reported zero cases, including Argentina, Costa Rica, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates.

The “Global Technical Strategy for Malaria,” ratified by the World Health Assembly last year, calls for the eradication of local malaria transmission in at least 10 countries by 2020. However, WHO estimates in its 2015 World Malaria report that more than 20 countries may be able to reach this goal, including six countries in Africa where there is a high disease burden. The ultimate goal is to eliminate malaria transmission in at least 35 countries by 2030.  

“Our report shines a spotlight on countries that are well on their way to eliminating malaria,” Pedro L. Alonso, MD, PhD, director of WHO’s global malaria program, said in the release. “WHO commends these countries while also highlighting the urgent need for greater investment in settings with high rates of malaria transmission, particularly in Africa. Saving lives must be our first priority.”

According to the report, worldwide malaria-related deaths have declined by 60% since 2000. In Africa, mortality declined by 66% among all age groups and 71% among children aged younger than 5 years. WHO attributed these declines with the use of insecticide-treated bed-nets, indoor residual spraying, rapid diagnostic testing and artemisinin-based combination treatments. The emergence of mosquito resistance to insecticides and antimalarial therapies, however, threatens recent progress. Therefore, WHO is calling for an increase in funding, from $2.5 billion to an estimated $8.7 billion annually by 2030, to develop new tools and improve the efficacy of existing technologies. The agency also stressed that government leadership in disease surveillance is key to malaria eradication.

“New technologies must go hand in hand with strong political and financial commitment,” Alonso said.

To mark the occasion of World Malaria Day, observed annually on April 25, Infectious Disease News has compiled a list of the top five stories in malaria during the past year.

Alternative preventive therapy, RDTs show promise against resistant malaria in pregnant women

As the prevalence of malaria resistant to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine increases, alternative strategies — such as preventive artemisinin combination therapy containing dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine or rapid diagnostic test-and-treat — may provide pregnant women protection from infection, according to two recently published studies. Read more.

Ivermectin interrupts malaria transmission in mosquitoes

PHILADELPHIA — Newly presented findings suggested that ivermectin is active against multiple strains of malaria and may be capable of interrupting transmission of the disease.

Ivermectin, a broad-spectrum antiparasitic agent, was initially explored for its ability to reduce parasitic infection in animals. The treatment effectively treats onchoceriasis, lymphatic filariasis and several types of soil-transmitted helminths, and recently was recognized by the Nobel Prize Committee for its role in reducing these parasitic diseases worldwide. Read more.

Diagnosis, treatment of malaria in US travelers hampered during Ebola outbreak

Fear of infection during the height of the Ebola outbreak may have delayed diagnosis and treatment of malaria among travelers returning to the United States from the affected region, according to case data highlighted in MMWR. These delays often were the result of health care and lab workers refusing to handle the patients’ blood until reassured there would be no risk for Ebola transmission, the CDC researchers wrote. Read more.

Mefloquine malaria treatment during pregnancy not harmful to newborns

Preventive treatment of malaria during pregnancy with mefloquine did not adversely affect early development in newborns when compared with treatment using sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, according to research in PLOS Medicine. Study results showed no significant differences in nutritional outcomes, psychomotor development or morbidity in either treatment group. Read more.

Malaria retreatment safe, effective against subsequent episodes

The antimalarial medication Pyramax appeared to be equally safe and efficacious during the first treatment vs. retreatment of subsequent malaria episodes, according to the results of a phase 3b/4 trial.

In a related commentary, Sabine Bélard, MD, MSc, of the pediatric pneumology and immunology department and Florian Kurth, MD, MSc, of the infectious diseases and pneumology department at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin, said the results are “highly reassuring;” however, the safety of pyronaridine-artesunate needs further examination in patients with liver diseases, those with elevated liver enzymes and patients with HIV. Read more.

For more information: World Malaria Report 2015