Gates Foundation Announces New Plan to Eradicate Malaria

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Written by Barbara Bean-Mellinger

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a plan to consolidate efforts worldwide to eradicate malaria. According to an All Africa report by writer Julie Strupp, the foundation made the decision based the recent advances and new tools that have shown promise in reducing malaria rates.

Malaria rates have fallen 33 percent in Africa over the last decade, according to the World Health Organization. Still, one African child dies from malaria every minute.

The foundation made its announcement at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Washington, DC. Afterwards, Dr. Alan Magill, director of the Gates Foundation’s malaria program, spoke about the foundation’s goals.

“One of the pivots in our strategy is investing in making things happen on the ground, as opposed to conceptual, upstream stuff,” said Magill.

Six years ago, the Gates Foundation set the goal of eradicating malaria worldwide. Now, the foundation believes the key is to coordinate the new tools and the programs in operation.

Tools such as rapid diagnostic tests, bed nets and augmenting treatment with artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) have shown to be effective and have become standard for malaria treatment.

Artemisinin are a group of drugs that possess the most rapid action of all current drugs against Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Treatments containing an artemisinin derivative are now standard worldwide.

Planners must work fast, however, to capitalize on what works while it’s still working. For example, bed nets treated with insecticide have been used for 40 years and malaria is starting to become resistant to the insecticide. Even with the newer ACTs, resistance is growing.

More focus needs to be placed on beating malaria in rural areas that are often forgotten, and on introducing preventive vaccines. A WHO specialist on malaria vaccines. Dr. Vasee Moorthy, said the agency’s goal is to have a vaccine that can potentially eradicate malaria licensed for use by 2015.