As global cases of malaria rise, what new methods can be used to prevent its spread?
Malaria experts are warning of a resurgence in the disease as global cases are no longer falling.
In 2016, 216 million cases of malaria were detected in 91 countries, compared to 211 million in 2015.
Around the world, 24 countries saw an increase of more than 50,500 cases in 2016, with Rwanda and Nigeria seeing 1 million new cases.
Cases of the disease have been rising across some parts of the Americas, South-East Asia, Western Pacific and Africa.
Experts have noted that mosquitos are becoming resistant to the insecticides and anti-malarial treatment used to prevent infection.
Bill Gates commented:
"If we stand still, the insecticides we use stop working, the drugs stop working because the parasite itself evolves around that, so this is a game where you are either falling behind or getting ahead."
However, scientists are researching new ways to combat the disease. Bill Gates urged for greater investment into malaria prevention research noting:
"This kills hundreds of thousands of children in Africa so unless we make big progress here we won't be doing what we owe Africa"
A new vaccine, Mosquirix, is currently being trialled in Africa to protect young children. Africa is home to 90% of malaria cases and 91% of malaria deaths.
Drone technology is also being increasingly used to fight malaria.
For example, drones are being used in Malaysia to track how a rare strain of malaria is passed from primates to humans.
Typically, the strain of malaria only infects macaques, but Malaysia has seen a dramatic rise with 69% of all human cases being caused by the ‘monkey malaria’.
Overall, cases of the unique malaria strain have increased from 376 in 2008 to 1,604 in 2016.
Kimberly Fornace a Research fellow involved in the project explained:
“[The rise in cases] is a cause for concern because Malaysia has made really huge gains in controlling other forms of malaria and the P knowlesi strain now makes up the vast majority of cases.”
“It is also worrying because what has worked for other strains of malaria such as … doing mass drug administrations – you obviously can’t do with monkeys”
The Commonwealth nations are pledging investments worth £2.7 billion to research into malaria prevention.
The Bill & Melina Gates foundation will increase malaria investments by $1 billion for the next five years.
The 4th Annual AIDF Asia Summit returns to Bangkok on 20-21 June. A key focus of the agenda will be malaria, with the Asia Pacaific Leaders Malaria Alliance dicussing the latest updates in malaria elimination.
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Image credit: WHO