Increasing resistance in mosquitoes to pyrethroids, a common insecticide used in bed nets, is one of the factors responsible for a recent stagnation in the decline of malaria infections and deaths. In some parts of Africa, malaria cases and victims are even rising due to the eroding efficacy of this critical malaria tool.

Scientists have developed an insecticide formulation that interferes with the mechanisms mosquitoes use to defeat pyrethroids. A study conducted in Uganda with over 23,000 children proved that the innovation is capable of significantly restoring the efficacy of pyrethroids. The new bed nets use a higher concentration of piperonyl butoxide (PBO), a chemical that obstructs the enzymes mosquitoes employ to limit the effects of pyrethroids.

A new study from the Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents (GBIRd) program partners identified knowledge gaps and opportunities for further research in the field of gene drive for conservation purposes, in particular to control invasive alien species in islands. The publication, led by researchers from North Carolina State University, focuses on what is currently known about natural and developing synthetic gene drive systems in mice, taking the house mouse (Mus musculus) as its primary species. The paper also explores findings in a variety of disciplines that could contribute to reducing knowledge gaps, emphasising the need for a multidisciplinary approach to assess the benefits and risks of gene drive effectively and responsibly.

Members and non-members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) can now consult the 120 motions accepted for debate and potentially adoption during the 2020 IUCN World Conservation Congress. However, only members can participate in the online discussions from December 2019 to March 2020 and vote for their approval from April to May 2020.

From the perspective of gene drive research, the most relevant motion under discussion is the Principles on synthetic biology and biodiversity conservation (075). Among the principles listed are free, prior and informed consent, multidisciplinary dialogue including conservationists and synthetic biologists, and the need to consider indigenous knowledge and scientific evidence during risk assessments and decision-making process.

Written by Delphine Thizy, Stakeholder Engagement Manager at Target Malaria

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its World Malaria Report 2019 today. The good news is that the number of malaria cases continues to decline. In 2018, there were 228 million cases of malaria worldwide, compared to 231 million in the previous year. The number of deaths has also decreased from 416,000 in 2017 to 405,000 in 2018. In the last decade, 23 countries have been certified malaria-free and the number of countries with less than 10,000 cases continues to increase.

Global investments and actions to fight the disease are making a difference. However, we need to do more. The report stresses that progress is coming at a slower pace. In 2010, the number of cases per 1,000 population was 71 but, since 2014, it remains at 57. Moreover, malaria is increasingly becoming a disease of poverty and inequality, with only five countries in sub-Saharan Africa registering 50% of the cases in 2018. The situation is not likely to get better, as a recent study about climate change effects on health indicates. Women and children are the most vulnerable groups. Children under five are at particular risk, accounting for two-thirds of malaria deaths in 2018 worldwide.

The Lancet Countdown recently launched its 2019 report tracking the effects of climate change on health. After analysing 41 indicators, researchers from 35 academic institutions and UN agencies concluded that the future of an entire generation depends on our ability to keep global warming below 2oC.

The impact of climate change on disease transmission is particularly concerning. Using 1950s data as reference, the climate suitability for malaria transmission averaged 29.9% above it from 2012 to 2017.