WHO, Roll Back Malaria Partnership Launch Initiative To Contain Artemisinin-Resistant Malaria

The WHO and Roll Back Malaria partnership (RBM) on Wednesday launched an initiative to “stop a form of drug-resistant malaria from spreading from Southeast Asia to Africa, where millions of lives could be at risk,” Reuters reports. “It would cost about $175 million a year to contain and prevent the global spread of the artemisinin-resistant parasite which first emerged along the Thai-Cambodian border in 2007, the United Nations agency said,” according to the news agency (Nebehay, 1/12).

The “Global plan for artemisinin resistance containment” (GPARC) highlights “the necessary actions to contain and prevent resistance to artemisinins, which are the critical component of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), the most potent weapon in treating falciparum malaria, the deadliest form of the disease,” according to a WHO press release (1/12).

The “WHO estimates that the number of malaria cases has fallen by more than 50 percent in 43 countries over the past decade. A recent analysis of malaria prevention in 34 African countries estimates that more than 730,000 lives were saved between 2000 and 2010 nearly three quarters of them since 2006, when the use of both insecticide-treated mosquito nets and ACTs became more widespread,” U.N. News Centre writes. “The loss of ACTs as an effective treatment would likely result in a significant increase in malaria-related deaths, the agency warned,” according to the news service (1/12).

“Resistance to previous generations of anti-malarials spread rapidly around the world, resulting in increases in child mortality and an untold number of deaths,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan writes in the introduction of the report (.pdf). “While efforts to contain and prevent artemisinin resistance at global and local levels have begun, they are not sufficient and must be expanded, intensified and better coordinated,” the report’s executive summary states. “The GPARC is intended to mobilize global and local stakeholders for the containment and ultimate elimination of artemisinin resistance where it has emerged and for the prevention of its emergence in or spread to new locations,” the summary states (2011).

The GPARC’s five-step action plan for containing and preventing artemisinin resistance calls for countries to: ensure their malaria control agendas are fully funded and implemented, increase surveillance for artemisinin resistance, require malaria diagnostics are performed on patients to validate ACTs prescription, increase artemisinin resistance-related research and mobilize resources, according to the WHO release.

”Effective containment of artemisinin resistance will significantly improve our capability to sustain current control achievements at country level,” said Awa Coll-Seck, executive director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, according  to the WHO release. ”We now have a coordinated plan to stop the spread of resistant parasites, but we need additional funding to fully implement it,” Coll-Seck said (1/12).

“The WHO Global Malaria Programme, as well as WHO Regional and Country Offices together with RBM partners, will support endemic countries to put simple and effective plans into place to contain or prevent resistance. Endemic countries will also need support from nongovernmental organizations, private sector, academic institutions and other partners, as well as additional funding for implementation,” Chan notes in the introduction of the report (2011).

“The $175 million being sought for containment would include some $65 million for accelerating research and development of new antimalarial drugs which are not based on artemisinin. Overall, some $3 billion is spent annually on malaria control,” Reuters continues. “The rest of the funds would be used to step up monitoring of the disease and purchase diagnostic kits to detect the resistant form,” the article reports (1/12).

The GPARC “was developed by the WHO Global Malaria Programme through consultation with over 100 malaria experts from across the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. Funding was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” according to the WHO release (1/12).

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