Study examines malaria control efforts in Africa

A recent study published in The Lancet found that despite efforts to improve malaria control methods in Africa, 57 percent of Africans are still at moderate-to-high risk of infection.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Kenya Medical Research Institute, University of Oxford and World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa and studied the prevalence of malaria-infected mosquitoes between 2000 and 2010 to evaluate the efficacy of malaria reduction initiatives. While progress has been made in decreasing rates of transmission, the researchers said more can be done to fight the endemic disease in Africat.

"In a period of global economic recession, these results emphasize the need for continued support for malaria control, not only to sustain the gains that have been made, but also to accelerate the reduction in transmission intensity where it still remains high," Kenya Medical Research Institute Professor Robert Snow said. "If investments in malaria are not sustained, hundreds of millions of Africans run the risk of rebound transmission, with catastrophic consequences."

The researchers estimated that the number of people living in areas of high malaria transmission fell by 16 percent between 2000 and 2010, but the population living in areas with moderate-to-high rates of transmission increased by 57 percent. Nearly all of the African population living in moderate-to-high transmission areas reside in 10 countries, potentially giving health authorities a baseline for how to structure malaria control initiatives.

"Previous attempts at measuring the effects of efforts to control malaria have used changes in deaths from malaria or clinical episodes of infection that rely on imprecise and unreliable methods such as verbal autopsy and limited passive case detection," Dr. Abdisalan Mohamed Noor of the University of Oxford and the Kenya Medical Research Institute said. "A more robust alternative is to measure changes in malaria parasite infection rates detected by microscopy or a rapid diagnostic test sampled through random community surveys. In the next decade these surveys should continue to be implemented. At the same time concerted efforts should be invested in rapidly expanding the diagnosis and reporting of clinical cases in Africa."

The researchers said focusing malaria reduction initiatives on countries with high transmission rates may make the eradicating the disease within the continent possible.