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Sunday 20th May 2018

Global campaign to wipe out malaria

15th October 2008

Genetic breakthroughs and a global campaign are energising efforts to eradicate one of the world’s gravest diseases.


The world finally seems to be getting serious about its attempts to eliminate malaria. A number of businesses, charities, celebrities and big aid donors have started to act on a strategy for malaria.

It coincides with the announcement of two breakthroughs in understanding the genetics of the parasites that spread a disease which affects half a billion people across the world every year.

The Global Malaria Action Plan – backed by the United Nations – has a series of targets to meet by 2015 which include reducing deaths to zero, cutting cases by 75% from the 2000 level and ultimately seeing the eradication of the disease.

With $3 billion pledged towards the effort, there is hope.

The use of artemisinin-based drugs and pesticides inside buildings is helping in some African states, along with insecticide-impregnated nets to stop mosquitoes biting people while they sleep.

There is still no vaccine, though two recent papers in Nature report advances that may help develop drugs.

One breakthrough has seen the successful sequencing of the genome of Plasmodium vivax and follows the similar development in 2002 for the genome Plasmodium falciparum.

But it has also been revealed that some instances of human malaria in south-east Asia may be attributed to the genome of Plasmodium knowlesi – a genome that may affect the immune system.

This development may make malaria even harder to wipe out and that search for a vaccine "could still prove tortuous".


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