Malaria is an age-old disease that despite being preventable and treatable continues to affect the lives of over 200 million people each year. Nearly two-thirds of global deaths from the disease in 2019 were children under five, and mostly concerned the African continent. Over the past few decades, a variety of tools - such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying of homes, rapid diagnostic tests, and new treatments and prophylactics - were successfully added to the arsenal of malaria interventions. Although these tools have enabled incredible progress, it is clear they will not be sufficient to eliminate the disease.
According to Dr Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, the emergence, in recent years of some potentially game-changing innovations could help address current challenges and aid to reverse stalled progress in the fight against malaria. These new tools include the use of gene drives to control the population of the malaria-carrying mosquito and new malaria vaccines that are currently being developed and tested. The World Health Organisation coordinated a pilot implementation programme of the GSK RTS,S vaccine, in three African countries. It has been shown to reduce severe malaria cases and deaths among young children by 70% when combined with seasonal malaria chemoprevention.
These novel approaches are still in the experimental stage, but with further development, they could revolutionize the fight against malaria. In this context, it is important to note that no tool used alone is a silver bullet. Malaria is a multi-faceted disease which has survived all these years mainly due to the mosquito and parasite’s ability to adapt. To stay a step ahead in the battle to eliminate malaria, we need a multi-pronged approach that builds on constant innovation.
Learn more about the importance of innovation in the fight against malaria in this article.