Malaria Elimination Impossible Without Vaccine

Malaria Elimination Impossible Without Vaccine

A new series of articles on malaria elimination argues that getting rid of the mosquito-borne disease will be much more expensive than controlling it, the Associated Press reports.

Published in the medical journal The Lancet, the Malaria Elimination series authored by medical experts examined such issues as the practicalities of wiping out the disease — which kills more than 860,000 people a year — and found that a main stumbling block to elimination is the lack of a vaccine. While a promising candidate is in trials, at best it will be only 50 percent effective. In addition, because malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes, eliminating it will mean eradicating billions of carriers — an especially tricky feat.

The findings contrast sharply with recent pronouncements by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization, which have devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to malaria eradication. "Far from being brave, the rhetoric around eliminating malaria is often naïve," said Lancet editor Richard Horton. "For sub-Saharan Africa, it's a hopelessly impossible target for now" because of the weak health systems and chronic medicine shortages in the region.

However, some experts argue that since more than seventy countries — including Britain, Italy, the United States, and Singapore — have already eliminated malaria, tools such as bed nets and drugs as well as higher living standards and a renewed focus on economic development eventually will contribute to eradication of the disease.

"It's not rocket science to get rid of malaria," said David Heymann, a former leader of WHO's attempt to eradicate polio. "But this has to be something countries make a sober assessment about and decide for themselves."

"Eliminating Malaria Impossible Without Vaccine." Associated Press 10/29/2010.