The Lancet Commission on Malaria Eradication, a group of 26 academics from around the world, will publish a study recommending a 2050 deadline for eradication of the mosquito-borne disease. Quoting sources, Science reports that the academics will also offer a timeline and concrete steps for achieving the target.
Zika, dengue, malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases have proven to be fatal for millions of people with health bodies and experts calling for sustained efforts to provide people protection from mosquitoes.
“It’s mainly about keeping up the spirit,” Arjen Dondorp, head of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok and a member of the Lancet group, was quoted as saying.
Earlier this year, a team of international researchers warned that Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, the two main disease-spreading mosquitoes , will pose a threat to 49 percent of the world’s population.
A deadline will also help raise money for the cause, Dondorp said.
But the Lancet commission’s planned high-profile announcement at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, has already caused a backlash.
Last week, the WHO released the summary of a report that says malaria eradication isn’t feasible in the foreseeable future and any deadline will only serve to undermine disease control efforts.
“We must not set the world up for another failed malaria eradication effort that could derail attempts to achieve our vision for decades,” the report from WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme) said, referring to similar efforts by the global health body 64 years ago.
The WHO published the summary and held a press conference last Thursday months ahead of the full report, “partly because of the noise that may be generated around” the Lancet report, Pedro Alonso, director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, told Science. “It is making sure that the community doesn’t go down a single line of thinking.”
Willem Takken, a retired medical entomologist from Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands, termed the developments as “a watershed moment.”
“Basically WHO now admits we won’t get rid of malaria anytime soon,” Takken said.
This seems to be in stark contrast to the enthusiasm shown by WHO when, in 2007, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates called for the worldwide eradication of malaria.
WHO’s first malaria eradication efforts began in 1955 due to effectiveness of insecticide DDT in killing mosquitoes.
However, as insecticide resistance emerged and the campaign made little headway in Africa, the World Health Assembly in 1969 shifted “responsibility for malaria control to national governments, while still retaining eradication as a long-term goal.”