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Malaria Experts Discuss Eradication At MIM Conference

In a session at the 5th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) Pan-African Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, experts discussed the tools required to eradicate the disease and highlighted insecticide and drug resistance in some parts of the world, Xinhua reports. Researchers noted that resistance to artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) has been documented in western Cambodia and “has now also been reported in the west of Thailand and in eastern Myanmar,” the news service writes (Ooko/Zhuoyun, 11/5).

According to Capital News, Pedro Luis Alonso, of the Manhica Health Research Center in Mozambique, “said although Africa was geared towards malaria eradication, the present strategies like use of treated bed nets and ACT drugs may not be adequate because of the cases of resistance.” He said current tools “will help us get very close to [eradication] but will not help us go over it.” He added that eliminating the disease could be reached, but that new tools must be developed.

Robert Newman, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Program, said malaria-endemic countries must take ownership of the issue and should focus on channeling the appropriate human resources to make eradication possible. “We need to know where malaria cases are if we are to eliminate malaria locally and ultimately eradicate it globally but we need to keep an eye on the things that might threaten our success,” Newman said.

Willis Akhwale, head of disease prevention and control at Kenya’s health ministry, said it would take about $100 million annually to eliminate malaria in Kenya over the next seven years. However, even if those resources were available, current strategies would have to be changed, he said. “We are at a place where we are controlling the disease and we now want to move to the next phase,” Akhwale said  (Karong’o, 11/4).

Experts at the session also spoke about the development of other drugs that could replace ACTs, Xinhua reports. “DHA/PQP (Eurartesim), a new ACT developed by Sigma Tau and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), and recently submitted to the European Agency EMEA, will also be submitted to the regulatory authorities of Cambodia. The drug could be used for the containment of the strains resistant to artemisinin” (11/5). According to an MIM press release (.pdf), the session also included discussion about political will, access to life-saving interventions and advocacy (11/4).

News Outlets Examine Experimental Malaria Vaccine

Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog looked at the “massive Phase 3 trial of a malaria vaccine [that] is now underway in Africa, with 5,000 children enrolled already out of a target population of 16,000. … [V]accines have historically proved the best technique for controlling infectious diseases, and researchers have high hopes for the new vaccine, called RTS,S/AS2A, or Mosquirix” (Maugh, 11/4).

Inter Press Service also reported on the vaccine. “GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals’ RTS,S is the first malaria vaccine to demonstrate a high level of efficacy. … Health experts warn the news of the impending approval of the vaccine does not mean people can discard the current malaria prevention measures including use of insecticide treated mosquito nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying,” IPS writes. According to Michael MacDonald from USAID’s malaria program, “These technologies have worked so far and communities need to continue using them. Should the vaccine be approved, these measures will continue to be used. Indeed, research is ongoing on strengthening the insecticides and making the ITNs longer lasting” (Anyangu, 11/4).