Effort to control malaria may be more effective than eradication

An expert team of researchers reports that an effort to control malaria may be more effective than the eradication efforts posed by the World Health Organization.

A report in the journal The Lancet says that the goal set by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2007 and endorsed by the WHO’s Director-General Margaret Chan to eradicate malaria “could lead to dangerous swings in funding and political commitment, in malaria and elsewhere,” the BBC reports.

“WHO has always supported – and will continue to support – endemic countries in their efforts to control and eliminate malaria,” Robert Newman, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Program, said, the BBC reports. “It is entirely feasible to eliminate malaria from countries and regions where the intensity of transmission is low to moderate, and where health systems are strong.”

The report suggests that an approach that would shrink the global area in which malaria is still endemic would be a better option.

“If existing control efforts were indeed scaled up, by 2015, 1.14 million children’s lives could be saved in sub-Saharan Africa alone," Dr. Richard Horton and Dr. Pamala Das wrote in the Lancet, according to the BBC. "This finding is important. The quest for elimination must not distract existing good malaria control work."

Malaria takes form as one of five different parasite species and is carried between humans by mosquitoes. While the portion of the world in which malaria is endemic has dwindled over the last 150 years, it is still endemic in 99 countries. Thirty-two of those countries are trying to eradicate the disease while the others have attempted to reduce deaths and infections with control methods.

“High level, sustained control will be essential before elimination can be attempted,” a spokeswoman for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said, according to the BBC. “And premature efforts at elimination, before countries are ready, will be counterproductive.”