An overview of the biology, prevention and control of malaria
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by several species of the protozoan parasite Plasmodium transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes. The disease affects about 200 million people and kills 400,000 each year, even though we have the means to prevent it. Global action, especially since 2000, has reduced the incidence but much still needs to be done to overcome existing and emerging challenges. Emerging threats include increasing resistance to the insecticides used and to antimalarial medicines. Concerted action will be needed by the global community over many years to eradicate malaria completely.
How many people are at risk of malaria?In 2015 it was estimated that 3.2 billion people are at risk in 97 countries.
Who is at risk?Over 90% of cases are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Children under five and pregnant women are especially at risk in ‘high burden’ areas.
How can malaria be stopped?The main strategies are:
Is there a vaccine?A vaccine called RTS,S/AS01 has been through clinical trials and is due to go into a pilot vaccination programme in 2018. This is only effective against the Plasmodium falciparum parasite.
What is being done to combat malaria?The UN set a Millennium Development Goal in 2000 to halt and reverse the incidence of malaria by 2015. Global action coordinated by WHO achieved the aim and death rates were significantly reduced. There is now a new WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016–20130 that aims to reduce incidence by a further 90%.
How much money is needed to implement the global malaria strategy?WHO estimates that an annual investment of US$6.4 billion will be needed by 2020, more than twice the recent funding.
The WHO defines three stages in the management of malaria:
Malaria control: the reduction of disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity or mortality to a locally acceptable level as a result of deliberate efforts. Continued intervention efforts are required to sustain control.
Malaria elimination: the interruption of local transmission of a specified malaria parasite in a defined geographic area (ie reducing cases to zero). Continued measures are required to prevent reestablishment of transmission.
Malaria eradication: the permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of infection caused by human malaria parasites as a result of deliberate efforts. Once eradication has been achieved, intervention measures are no longer needed.
Rentokil Initial has actively supported the charity Malaria No More since 2011. The charity supports projects to fight malaria in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana, Namibia and Kenya.
Rentokil Initial has raised over £136,000 to date. Colleagues have come up with many ideas to raise funds including bike rides, mountain climbs, wearing onesies to work and cake bakes. A UK schools tour travelled 2,298 miles in 2015, raising a pound for every mile and reached out to over 5,000 children in 33 schools.
In 2015, Rentokil celebrated its 90th anniversary. In a gathering in the House of Commons in London to celebrate this milestone, MPs and Lords were invited to try insect-based foods in our ‘Pestaurant’, with funds being raised for Malaria No More. On the night, a cheque for £30,000 from a range of fund-raising activities was presented to the charity.