Malaria scientists set sights on global eradication

Aggressively scaling up control will not be enough to eradicate the disease, the report said Copyright: Flickr/US Army Africa

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[MEXICO CITY] A suite of new tools against malaria will be needed to fulfil the ambitious new goal of total eradications, according to a report by 250 scientists published this week (25 January).

New drugs, vaccines and mosquito control methods, aided by new diagnostic and surveillance tools —  all aimed at interrupting transmission of the parasite rather than humbler goals relating to control of the disease — will all be needed, said the report, published as 12 scientific papers in PLoS Medicine.

Two years in the making, the Malaria Eradication Research Agenda (malERA) report seeks to lay out a "true paradigm shift" of an agenda. 

"The current expert view suggests that, by aggressively scaling up control with currently available tools and strategies, much greater gains could be achieved against malaria, including elimination from a number of countries and regions; however, even with maximal effort we will fall short of global eradication," said malERA.

The new agenda "aims to identify key knowledge gaps and define the strategies and tools that will result in reducing the basic [mosquito] reproduction rate to less than one, with the ultimate aim of eradication of the parasite from the human population".

In an accompanying statement, the malERA leadership council called for researchers, especially those in malaria-endemic countries, to be driven by this goal.

" … It may be possible to fulfil the dream that malaria eradication can be achieved within the lifetime of young scientists just embarking on their careers, even in the most difficult areas where current tools/strategies have proven to be insufficient."

New areas of research they are calling for include the development of drugs capable not only of treating the sick but also of clearing every single parasite from the infected person — so that it is impossible for them to infect anyone else.

Similar goals lie behind the other proposed research agendas: basic science, vaccines, vector control, health systems, modelling, diagnostics, monitoring, evaluation and surveillance.

Drawing on studies of past efforts, scientists said that there had been an assumption 50 years ago that the available knowledge and tools were sufficient to achieve worldwide eradication.

"The neglect of malaria research during and after the [1955 WHO Global Malaria Eradication Program] did long-term damage," they said.  

Link to full papers in PLoS Medicine