By Sarah Pickersgill
Advocacy and Communications Officer, MACEPA, and Global Health Corps Fellow
Yesterday was World Malaria Day, and countries around the world celebrated their renewed commitments to ending the disease. This year’s theme was “Ready to Beat Malaria.”
Stories and pictures are still coming in, so make sure to check out next week’s Malaria Minute for a recap of all the World Malaria Day excitement.
7th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) Conference in Dakar, April 15–20
A wide array of innovative new tools and solutions were presented at this year’s MIM conference—regarded as the largest scientific conference focused on the global effort to eliminate malaria. Presented was the first-ever malaria vaccine, RTS,S, which will be rolled out later this year in parts of Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi.
Other innovations included the launch of an online database to address insecticide resistance, the impact of intermittent preventive therapy of malaria in pregnancy, preventing the disease through seasonal malaria chemoprevention, eliminating mosquitoes through genetic engineering, and addressing malaria transmitted through blood transfusions. (Health News)
Check out some of the great articles about the conference:
Tackling malaria in areas where conflict forces people from their homes and upends health systems remains a major challenge in the pursuit of malaria elimination. It requires new strategies since those used elsewhere—such as distributing bed nets—do not work, said Richard Allen, head of The Mentor Initiative, an organization focused on disease control in humanitarian crises. “All too often we try to make the wrong tool fit the context,” Allen said in an interview ahead of MIM. Researchers at the conference presented possible solutions such as insecticide-treated plastic sheeting that can be used for shelters, and giving health workers mini malaria kits in a backpack. (Reuters)
After losing his 12-year-old daughter to malaria, Elhadj Diop has dedicated his life to ensuring his community is malaria free. He has given up his job, sold his belongings, walked hundreds of kilometers, and convinced thousands of people—from politicians to village sanitation brigades—to play their part. He shared his story last week at MIM and with the BBC.
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, April 16–20
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London last week brought together high-level stakeholders, including business leaders, philanthropists, scientists, heads of state, and members of civil society to announce significant new commitments to mobilize domestic resources, increase investment, and develop new innovations and approaches toward beating malaria. (Reuters)
A group of donors led by Bill Gates and The Global Fund pledged $3.8 billion to malaria R&D, Reuters reported. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which co-convened the malaria summit, pledged an extra $1 billion through 2023 to fund malaria research and development to try to end malaria for good. Among the group of donors was the UK government, Wellcome Trust (ReliefWeb), and private sector partners like Novartis and GSK (Bloomberg).
Commitments include a range of new interventions across three categories: funding, innovation, and better data, with strong support from malaria-endemic countries and a special focus on refugees and internally displaced people. (Devex)
For more on MIM, check out the PATH Newsroom!
At the summit, Gates expressed the need for continued innovation, particularly in malaria surveillance. “Electronic reporting through handheld devices can turn our current surveillance system, with its months of lag time, into a real-time system that is also geo-located,” he said. Gates went on to mention that some countries like Zambia have already invested in surveillance systems and have also trained health workers to report and track infections accurately as well as provide treatment. (The Independent)
Gates also presented a data visualization that MACEPA created for mSpray indoor residual spraying data (pictured above). For the full speech, check out this video.
Pictured above: Neal Myrick, CEO of the Tableau Foundation, presented another data visualization from Southern Province, Zambia. Neal answered questions about the Visualize No Malaria Partnership and how other countries can leverage their data to strengthen malaria surveillance systems.
For more on the Visualize No Malaria Partnership and how it’s working in Zambia, check out this blog post from PATH’s Jeff Bernson, It helps to have friends in tech (unless you’re a malaria parasite).
Coverage from the Financial Times
Representatives from Zambia were in the UK for CHOGM last week, but the UK also came to Zambia earlier this month. Andrew Jack, a reported for the Financial Times, visited Zambia to learn more about Zambia’s ambitious goal to eliminate malaria by 2021. Check out his pieces on Zambia, mass drug administration, and the big picture of malaria elimination in the Financial Times.
More from the Financial Times:
International SBCC Summit in Bali
MACEPA’s Elizabeth Chiyende and Ernest Kakoma from the Zambia National Malaria Elimination Centre were in Bali, Indonesia, last week for the International Social Behavior Change Communication Summit. Pictured below: Ernest Kakoma gives a presentation on the engagement of community health workers to increase timely and accurate malaria surveillance and reporting.
In other news
New research published in the Lancet suggests that scientists have developed a novel bednet incorporating a chemical called piperonyl butoxide, which blocks the natural defense mechanisms of insects against the standard insecticide pyrethroid. These nets would therefore inhibit the mosquitoes ability to develop insecticide resistance. (Reuters)
An in depth piece in The Telegraph about the “War on malaria: on the brink of a breakthrough?” describes a new plan battle plan, attacking malaria on three fronts: 1. vaccines and treatment, 2. genetic modification, and 3. sprays and drones.
Researchers have designed a simple web-based application that helps with the planning of integrated malaria and schistosomiasis control programs. Both schistosomiasis and malaria have a similar geographic and demographic impact and at an individual level there is a high rate of co-infection. “By summarizing complex disease model outputs as a straightforward benefit comparison, in language and terminology familiar to disease control officers, our prototype tool provides the effective translation from academic research to support evidence-based decision making at national, regional, and local scales,” the researchers say. (Eurekalert)
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria plans to suspend North Korea’s grants by June 30. However, multidrug resistant tuberculosis and malaria are on the rise there and many are concerned about the potential impact on the region. (The Washington Post)
A rare human outbreak of monkey malaria has been detected in Malaysia. Although only a few cases have been detected, researchers are worried that the ongoing destruction of monkeys’ forest habitat is increasing the amount of contact between people and primates, providing more opportunities for transmission of the disease. (Nature)
UK scientists reviewed 26 studies that measured levels of Plasmodium parasites among blood donors in sub-Saharan Africa between 2000 and 2017 and found that an average of 23.46 percent tested positive. Although percentages varied greatly across the nine countries included in the study, ranging from zero percent to as much as 74 percent of donors carrying the parasites in their blood, the findings are nonetheless concerning as malaria can be transmitted through these transfusions. (CNN)