WMD: WHO highlights innovations for fighting malaria

The World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted rapid success in the global fight against malaria if countries step up efforts to support innovations for combating the disease.

In key messages to commemorate the 2023 World Malaria Day (WMD), the agency recounted available innovations and those in the offing for fighting the ailment.

The commemoration has the theme, “Time to deliver zero malaria: invest, innovate, implement”.

WHO said research and development (R&D) had played a crucial role in reducing the global burden of malaria over the last two decades. 

Among the R&D outputs are antimalarial medicines. According to the WHO, developing non-ACT treatment options is a priority for researchers in the face of the emergence and spread of partial resistance to artemisinin. 

It said next-generation medicines were in the pipeline – such as ‘triple ACTs’ that rely on a combination of artemisinin and two partner drugs to mitigate the risk of drug resistance. 

Other medicines under evaluation use different chemical entities as an alternative to artemisinin and its derivates; four are currently in clinical trials.

Added to R&D on malaria over the past two decades is the massive roll-out of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). 

Besides, there are 28 new products in the R&D pipeline. Tools under evaluation include new insecticide-treated nets, targeted baits that attract mosquitoes, spatial repellents, lethal house lures (eaves tubes) and genetic engineering of mosquitoes. 

The agency noted that should the tools demonstrate efficacy in controlling the disease, it would develop new policy recommendations or amend existing ones to support their deployment in malaria-affected countries like Nigeria.

Malaria vaccines, seen by many experts as the biggest breakthrough in the fight against the condition, are also making inroads into checkmating the disease. 

“Like the RTS,S vaccines, many of them target the malaria parasite before it enters the human liver, where it can quickly multiply. The most advanced of these candidates is R21, which recently completed Phase 3 clinical trials. Other vaccine candidates seek to stop transmission of the malaria parasite, and still others to protect women during pregnancy.

“New diagnostics are also on the way. To address problems around HRP2/3 gene deletions, which compromise the performance of RDTs that detect P. falciparum malaria, researchers are pursuing the development of diagnostics that use alternative biomarkers. Non-invasive diagnosis using saliva and urine is another growing area of investigation, with potential for rapid screening outside of conventional medical settings.”

For more rapid success, WHO urged malaria-affected countries and partners to deliver its recommended tools and strategies for everyone at risk of malaria – and particularly those most vulnerable.

It also said there was a need for countries to address the barriers people face in accessing quality health services. “Investments in well-functioning health systems, built on a foundation of primary health care, can address people’s health needs close to where they live and work while, at the same time, reducing the cost of care and enhancing equity.”

In 2021, The ICIR reported how Nigeria was not among three African countries where the malaria trial vaccine RTS’S was administered in three African countries.

In March, this organisation reported how WHO declared Azerbaijan and Tajikistan malaria-free while Nigeria remained burdened.

However, in March 2023, the Nigerian government approved the use of a second vaccine – R21/Matrix – trialled and recommended for use by WHO.

The ICIR reported that Nigeria has the highest malaria burden globally

In its 2023 malaria commemoration message, the WHO said there were 619,000 malaria deaths and 247 million new malaria cases in 2021 in the WHO African Region.






     

     

    The agency added that 95 per cent of all global malaria cases were logged in the region.

    Besides, it said the 2022 World Malaria Report showed a funding gap of US$ 3.8 billion in 2021 between the amount invested in the global malaria response (US$ 3.5 billion) and the resources needed (US$ 7.3 billion).

    The gap widened from US$ 2.6 billion in 2019 to US$ 3.5 billion in 2020 and US$ 3.8 billion in 2021.

    “Despite the significant contributions of countries and partners, the Seventh Global Fund replenishment raised US$ 15.7 billion against an expected target of at least US$ 18 billion. With the changing economic environment, the funding space for the malaria response has become increasingly challenging.

     

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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