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World Malaria Day: Better Health, Better Future

malaria leaf

27 Apr 2015

World Malaria Day was on 25 April and prompts a call for high-level commitment by scientists and advocates for the vision of a world free of malaria. On this day several organisations in several countries will have showcased the progress they achieved towards their respective Malaria Control programmes. In 2013 there were almost 200 million cases and over half a million deaths due to malaria, the World Health Organisation reports. The theme set by Roll Back Malaria, from 2013 to 2015 is Invest in the future. This shows the very ambitious task and strategy to reduce malaria cases and deaths by 90% by 2030 from current levels. The current malaria control programmes consist of concerted and innovative efforts from Vector control, environmental management, drug development and diagnostics technology specialists/experts.

The treatment of malaria consists mainly of Artemisin Combination Therapies which reduce Malaria parasites from the blood stream quite rapidly. However the spread of drug resistance to Artemisinin as observed in Southeast Asia is of most concern in addition to globalisation which has led to reports of imported and non-imported malaria in temperate areas such as Greece recently...consequently this is an issue of international importance.

Much has been accomplished by the distribution of insecticide treated bed nets to control malaria.  While the mortality of children under five has decreased, not all adults go under the net until much later so they are not so well protected especially as the mosquitoes are now resistant to pyrethroid insecticides in most of Africa.   In the next few years much more attention needs to be directed by governments to implement integrated vector management (IVM). While this will include distribution of nets that now include piperonyl butoxide (PBO) to overcome the effect of resistance, there will also have to be more reliance on indoor residual spraying, but alternatives to pyrethroid insecticides are more expensive. Hopefully new chemistry will enable new insecticides to be developed, but this will take time. In the meantime efforts should be made to get houses improved, especially by screening windows and doors, which was a highly effective method in the USA before the availability of DDT.  There is a need for advice and materials on how to screen windows and doors that automatically shut so that mosquitoes are unable to enter houses.  Gaps in walls can be filled with local materials or by using old bed nets. Improvement in drainage around houses will also help to reduce the number of breeding sites for mosquitoes, with permanent ponds treated with a larvicide. All these techniques were key components in reducing malaria before insecticides came to be used extensively.   Area-wide insecticide space sprays may also provide effective protection in highly populated urban areas when rainfall results in a sudden upsurge in mosquito populations.

SCI, as a multidisciplinary society, is highly equipped with the expertise necessary to be fully involved in this journey towards a malaria free world. SCI’s membership includes professionals from a variety of fields and stages in their career who are involved in this area. Through our network, we have already delivered several activities to engage a wider audience on this topical issue. The SCI fine chemicals group generally incorporates updates by speakers engaged in the drug discovery and development of anti-malarials and novel diagnostic tools in their conferences.  We have had features in our renowned magazine Chemistry and Industry, as well as the peer reviewed journals - Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture  and Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology . A conference is also being planned on Vector Control. If you are interested in working with like minded members, who have shared interest, to progress SCI’s presence in this field, please contact us via communications @soci.org.

Dr Mary Nnankya and Prof Graham Matthews
SCI Biotechnology and Agrisciences Groups

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