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World Health Organization: Malaria treatment stalls as funding flatlines

The war on malaria has been a victory for human health, driving deaths down and life expectancy up. But experts fear that the positive trajectory is starting to shift. The global fight against malaria is grinding to a halt, the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday, amid flat-lining funding and political complacency. Malaria infected an estimated 216 million people last year — about 5 million more than in 2015 — potentially reversing a six-year trend of decreasing infection cases. The majority of the 440,000 lives claimed by the mosquito-borne disease were young children in sub-Saharan Africa. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said "progress appears to have stalled" in the fight against the tropical disease. "Although there are some bright spots in the data, the overall decline in the global malaria burden has unquestionably levelled off," Ghebreyesus said. "And, in some countries and regions, we are beginning to see reversals in the gains achieved." Fall in funding Experts fear financial shortfalls and government complacency have thrown progress off track. "At the current level of funding and coverage of current tools, we have reached the limits of what can be achieved in the fight against the disease," said Abdisalan Noor, lead author of the WHO's annual malaria report. Investment into malaria prevention — a third of which came from the US last year — has leveled off since 2010. Analysis by the WHO found that funding in countries with a high risk of malaria had dropped to an average of less than two dollars per person per year. The WHO says a minimum annual investment of $6.5 billion (€5.5 billion) is required to meet its ambitious 2030 targets. Funding in 2016 stood at just $2.7 billion. Change in fortunes The long-term global decline in malaria-related deaths has helped cut child mortality, driving a sharp increase in global life expectancy. The WHO has repeatedly made announcement on "the massive roll-out of effective disease-cutting tools" and "impressive reductions in cases and deaths." Mosquito nets soaked in insecticide — mostly delivered through mass distribution campaigns — are the primary method of protection. But in sub-Saharan Africa fewer than half of households have sufficient access to them. "If we continue with a business-as-usual approach — employing the same level of resources and the same interventions — we will face near-certain increases in malaria cases and deaths," Ghebreyesus said. Uneven coverage Some 80 percent of malaria deaths take place in just 15 countries — 14 sub-Saharan African nations and India. Emergency work is underway in Nigeria, South Sudan, Venezuela and Yemen, where ongoing humanitarian crises pose further public health risks. Several countries in the Middle East and central Asia have been certified as malaria-free in the last decade, including Morocco, Armenia and Turkmenistan. Last year, Kyrgyzstan and Sri Lanka joined their ranks, having gone three years without recording an indigenous case of malaria. "We are up against a tough adversary," Ghebreyesus said. "But I am also convinced that this is a winnable battle."

The war on malaria has been a victory for human health, driving deaths down and life expectancy up. But experts fear that the positive trajectory is starting to shift. The global fight against malaria is grinding to a halt, the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday, amid flat-lining funding and political complacency. Malaria infected an estimated 216 million people last ... Read More »

EU regulators give green light to world’s first malaria vaccine

European regulators have recommended licensing the world's most advanced malaria vaccine. The European Medicines Agency said its advantages outweighed the fact that it is only about 30 percent effective. The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, which is being developed by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was given the go-ahead "for use outside the European Union" on Friday, despite attaining mixed results in years of testing. "The CHMP (Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use) concluded that despite its limited efficacy, the benefits of Mosquirix outweigh the risks," the London-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in a statement. Final results of a trial with the vaccine, which also goes under the name of RTS,S and is intended for use with young children, were published in the medical journal "The Lancet" earlier this year. They show that the vaccine protects about 30 percent of children, but that the effects wear off over time, even when booster shots are administered. Despite this partial effect, the drug remains the most advanced vaccine that has so far been developed to combat the mosquito-borne disease, which kills around 1,200 children in sub-Saharan Africa on average per day. More than 80 percent of malaria deaths are in children under the age of five. 'Supplementary treatment' The World Health Organization says on its website that it is considering using the vaccine "as an addition to" existing treatments and not as a substitute for them. The vaccine has been developed with backing from the non-profit group PATH Malaria Vaccine initiative and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and has cost hundreds of millions of dollars to create. GSK has promised it will make no profit from Mosquirix, taking only a 5-percent profit that it will reinvest in more research on malaria and other tropical diseases. Malaria infects around 200 million people a year, and killed an estimated 584,000 in 2013, the overwhelming majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

European regulators have recommended licensing the world’s most advanced malaria vaccine. The European Medicines Agency said its advantages outweighed the fact that it is only about 30 percent effective. The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, which is being developed by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was given the go-ahead “for use outside the European Union” on Friday, despite attaining mixed results ... Read More »

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