Study to Eradicate Malaria Using Smallpox Eradication Techniques
The eradication of smallpox was achieved by employing data-driven strategies that targeted resources to the places where they were most needed rather than attempting to achieve mass coverage everywhere.
A worker sprays insecticide for mosquitos at at a park. (Image: Reuters)
According to a study by malaria journal, elimination of mosquito borne disease malaria and its complete eradication will require internationally coordinated approaches; sustained engagement from politicians, communities, and funders; efficient organizational structures; innovation and new tools; and well-managed programmes.
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites during monsoon season. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called "malaria vectors." There are 5 parasite species that cause malaria in humans, and 2 of these species – P. falciparum and P. vivax – pose the greatest threat, according to World Health Organisation.
The first symptoms – fever, headache, and chills – may be mild and difficult to recognize as malaria. If not treated within 24 hours, P. falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness, often leading to death. Children with severe malaria frequently develop one or more of the following symptoms: severe anaemia, respiratory distress in relation to metabolic acidosis, or cerebral malaria. In adults, multi-organ failure is also frequent. In malaria endemic areas, people may develop partial immunity, allowing asymptomatic infections to occur.
The Malaria Journal conducted a review of smallpox literature to evaluate how the smallpox programme addressed seven challenges that will likely confront malaria eradication efforts, including fostering international support for the eradication undertaking, coordinating programmes and facilitating research across the world’s endemic countries, securing sufficient funding, building domestic support for malaria programmes nationally, ensuring strong community support, identifying the most effective programmatic strategies, and managing national elimination programmes efficiently.
Review of 118 publications describing how smallpox programmes overcame these challenges resulted with the suggestion that eradication may succeed as a collection of individual country programmes each deriving local solutions to local problems, yet with an important role for the World Health Organization and other international entities to facilitate and coordinate these efforts and encourage new innovations.
The eradication of smallpox was achieved by employing data-driven strategies that targeted resources to the places where they were most needed rather than attempting to achieve mass coverage everywhere. This is a potentially useful lesson for malaria programmes seeking universal coverage with available tools. Finally, lessons from smallpox programmes suggest strong engagement with the private sector and affected communities can help increase the sustainability and reach of today’s malaria programmes.
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