Much Work Remains To Be Done In Fight Against Malaria

Positive results announced this week from a large clinical trial testing the efficacy of the RTS,S malaria vaccine are “encouraging,” but they are also “a reminder of how much work remains to be done,” an Economist editorial reports. The WHO abandoned its first efforts to eradicate the disease 14 years after setting out to do so in 1955, but “a new wave of enthusiasm,” beginning in 1998 with the establishment of the Roll Back Malaria partnership and culminating with Bill Gates’s call for malaria eradication four years ago, “has helped to lower the number of malaria deaths by 20 percent over the past decade,” the editorial states.

Noting “[t]he existing tools of insecticide-treated bed nets and treatment drugs require careful coordination and good health systems,” and the emergence of treatment-resistant parasites, the editorial writes, “To achieve eradication — or anything close to it — new weapons are needed.” The next generation of malaria vaccines already are being researched, but “[a]ll of this work requires further investment at a time when global health programs must compete fiercely for cash,” the editorial concludes (10/22).