Noting “[t]he Malaria Policy Advisory Committee to the World Health Organization met in Geneva, Switzerland, from 11 to 13 September, 2012,” an article (.pdf) published in the Malaria Journal on Wednesday “provides a summary of the discussions, conclusions and recommendations from that meeting,” according to the article abstract. “Policy statements, position statements, and guidelines that arise from the MPAC meeting conclusions and recommendations will be formally issued and disseminated to World Health Organization Member States by the World Health Organization Global Malaria Programme,” the abstract notes (12/19).
“Global efforts to combat malaria are under threat from new strains of drug-resistant malaria, which are cropping up in Southeast Asia,” particularly in Cambodia, Myanmar (also known as Burma), Thailand and Vietnam, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. “Although the resistance is still limited to Southeast Asia, WHO officials worry that it could spill out of the region,” the blog notes. “Shots” includes a video report from NPR correspondent Jason Beaubien on efforts to properly treat the disease in Thailand (Beaubien/De La Cruz, 12/18).
The Lancet reports on global efforts to develop a malaria vaccine, writing, “Since the mid-1980s, various malaria vaccine candidates have been tested in the hope of finding a molecule that can provide long-lasting immune protection against the disease that still kills 600,000 to 1.2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa each year. However, none has yet made it into routine use.” The journal highlights a recent trial “of one of the most advanced candidate vaccines, the RTS,S subunit vaccine,” which “found only modest efficacy, about 30 percent,” and notes, “These results prompted some people to question whether this vaccine is ever likely to make a viable contribution to malaria control programs.” The Lancet adds, “Meanwhile, new experiments with whole parasite immunizations offer hope of more effective vaccines, but with substantial technological challenges” (Hayward, January 2013).
“The remarkable gains made in the treatment of malaria over the past decade are under threat because of insufficient increases in funding over the past two years, according to an annual progress report by the World Health Organization,” the Guardian reports (Boseley, 12/17). In its World Malaria Report 2012 (.pdf), the [WHO] notes that rapid expansion in global funding for malaria prevention and control between 2004 and 2009 leveled off between 2010 and 2012,” the U.N. News Centre writes (12/17). “Global funding for malaria control remained at $2.3 billion in 2011, the WHO said” in the report, Bloomberg notes, adding, “Money available for combating the mosquito-borne disease is expected to peak at about half of the $5.1 billion that’s needed annually to provide bed nets, tests and drugs to all the people who need them, the WHO said” (Bennett, 12/17). “This means that millions of people living in highly endemic areas continue to lack access to effective malaria prevention, diagnostic testing, and treatment,” according to a WHO press release (12/17).
In the U.N. Foundation Blog, Gretchen King, director of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI), examines the efforts of LMI to “mobiliz[e] U.S. Lutherans in the global effort to end malaria deaths in Africa.” She writes, “While much of our campaign has focused on U.S. Lutherans, recently LMI held its first advocacy day on Capitol Hill,” adding, “We shared with several members of Congress and their staffs the work of LMI, the importance of continued U.S. bilateral funding for anti-malaria programs, and strong support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria” (12/11).
“There is currently a $3.6 billion funding gap on malaria in Africa, according to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, whose board concluded its 23rd meeting in Dakar, Senegal, on December 7,” Devex’s “Development Newswire” blog reports. Of the total, eight African countries — Nigeria, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Niger, and Sierra Leone — need $2.4 billion to maintain their malaria prevention and treatment efforts over the next two years, “with Nigeria alone requiring nearly half that amount,” according to the blog (Ravelo, 12/10).
In the New York Times’ “Scientist At Work” blog, Alexander Kumar, a physician and researcher at Concordia Station in Antarctica, examines the question of “why humans should venture out to other planets, and perhaps in the process create new problems, when we have so many problems on our own planet,” including HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and other “largely preventable and treatable” conditions. Kumar, who is “investigat[ing] the possibility of one day sending humans to Mars” for the European Space Agency, says he is “repeatedly asked … why the human race would invest its precious and finite resources (money) into space exploration?” He continues, “People have presented valid arguments both ways: those against, about depriving the bottom billion of our planet by diverting much-needed funding; and those in favor, for furthering mankind’s now-desperate need for discoveries and new life-saving technology through exploration in space.
BBC News examines “a worrying drop in the effectiveness of the artemisinin-based drugs” against malaria along the Cambodian-Thai border, and how clinics are attempting to combat the trend by offering monetary incentives to patients to complete treatment regimens. “Thanks to the efforts of health workers … , and the widespread availability of treatment, malaria still only kills a handful of people in Thailand each year,” according to the BBC. “The focus now is on trying to monitor and contain artemisinin drug resistance into a few hotspots, prolonging the drug’s effective lifespan globally until alternative treatments are available,” the news service writes, adding, “Africa’s hopes of maintaining its progress rests firmly on South East Asia’s efforts.” Fatoumata Nafo-Traore, executive director of Roll Back Malaria and the former health minister of Mali, said if drug-resistant malaria reached Africa, it would be a “massive crisis” because there is not an alternative drug to the usually highly effective artemisinin-based drugs, according to BBC (Fisher, 11/22).
The “grand experiment” of the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm) — a pilot program that aims to get artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) into rural areas of several African nations — “seems likely to end, its successes underrated and potential improvements not yet explored,” a Nature editorial says. In October, “an independent evaluation found that it had performed remarkably well on the main benchmarks of success, increasing the number of outlets stocking ACTs and lowering prices,” but last week “the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria decided to end the AMFm as a stand-alone program, by integrating it into the fund’s core system for awarding malaria-control grants to countries,” the editorial notes, adding, “This integration probably spells the end for AMFm, because there will be no new money for the program after the end of next year.”
The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Thursday announced it will “integrate” the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm), implemented in 2010 as a pilot program to provide low-cost artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) in poor and rural areas, “into its existing core system of providing grants to countries to purchase drugs, bed nets and other malaria-control measures,” Nature News Blog reports (Butler, 11/15). “During a transition period in 2013, the lessons learned from the operations and resourcing of Phase 1 of the AMFm, such as manufacturer negotiations and the co-payment mechanism, will be integrated into core Global Fund processes,” a Global Fund press release states.