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Attempts to eliminate malaria were so far unsuccessful. A new approach aims to develop resistance to malaria pathogen in the wild mosquito population. The strategy can eliminate the natural pool of parasites and thus prevent human infection.

Despite numerous attempts to eliminate malaria, the disease remains one of the most common infections in the tropical regions. More than half a million people die from this disease every year in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Staggering 220 million cases of malaria were reported in the year 2010 alone.

Malaria became resistant to most available drugs

Pharmaceutical approaches to tackling the malaria problem had limited success. Although multiple drugs were introduced to treat infection, the disease has eventually developed resistance to almost all of them. Artemisinin is the newest and reportedly the most efficient drug in the currently available arsenal of anti-malarial tools, but the first cases of resistance to this drug were recently reported from Cambodia.

Read More: West Nile Virus

Neglected tropical diseases like malaria receive very little attention from pharmaceutical industry

Unfortunately, malaria is one of those unprofitable tropical diseases that attract very little attention of pharmaceutical industry. Since malaria mostly affects the population of poor countries, the chances of getting decent profits from selling any newly developed drugs and thus recovering the development costs are not high. This further slows down any progress in funding the solution for the problem of malaria.

Complex life cycle of parasite complicates the task of malaria’s eradication

The complexity of the parasite’s life cycle is yet another contributing factor to this lack of success. Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite causing infection resides in the wild population of several mosquito species. People get infected through the bites of these insects. Multiple drugs and their combinations can treat the affected individuals, with varying degree of success. These treatments, however, do nothing to eliminate the natural pool of disease in the wild. Like many other parasites, Plasmodium eventually develops resistance to the commonly used drugs, making them inefficient in treating the infected people.

Any radical strategy of fighting malaria should not only aim at finding new drugs but also at addressing the problem of the disease pool in nature which is the endless source of new and drug resistant strains of pathogen. 

The use of insecticides for elimination of mosquitoes in the areas affected by malaria has limited successdue to the eventual development of resistance to insecticides.

It is also not an ideal solution: many insecticides are toxic and dangerous for the environment. They tend to kill not only mosquitoes but many other insects as well. This has a potential to affect the balance of natural ecosystems and eventually impact the welfare of local human population.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Guowu Bian, Deepak Joshi, Yuemei Dong et al. (10 May 2013) Wolbachia Invades Anopheles stephensi Populations and Induces Refractoriness to Plasmodium Infection. Science 340, 748-751
  • Nayyar GML, Breman JG, Newton PN et al. (2012). Poor-quality antimalarial drugs in southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Lancet Infectious Diseases 12 (6): 488–96
  • Olivo Miotto, Jacob Almagro-Garcia, Magnus Manske et al. (2013) Multiple populations of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in Cambodia. Nature Genetics 45, 648–655
  • Raghavendra K, Barik TK, Reddy BP et al. (2011). Malaria vector control: From past to future. Parasitology Research 108 (4): 757–79
  • Photo courtesy of Gates Foundation by Flickr :
  • Photo courtesy of Pandiyan V by Flickr :

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