The Lancet Commission on Malaria Eradication which recently published its report states that eradication of the mosquito-borne disease is possible by 2050. The commission, however, warns that while over 100 countries have managed to eradicate malaria, a chance of resurgence and re-establishment is still possible.
According to the Lancet Commission, in India, the malaria vector, Anopheles stephensi, has a suitable environment for breeding which means incidence of the disease in urban areas is quite high.
Notably, in 2017, there were a total of 219 million malaria cases in 86 countries, a decline from 262 million cases, and 839,000 malaria deaths in 2001. Out of the 219 million cases reported in 2017, 9.6 million were in India.
According to the Lancet commission, three important tools are necessary in the worlds attempt at eliminating malaria by 2050. These include rapid diagnostic tests, artemisinin-based combination therapy, and long lasting insecticide-treated nets.
Apart from these, IT, molecular methods for diagnosis and surveillance, and a new drug for Plasmodium vivax malaria will act as catalysts for eradication as well.
India follows the recommendations of World Health Organization (WHO)'s Global Technical Strategy for Malaria to eradicate the mosquito-borne disease. However, improper waste management, lack of municipal water supply infrastructure, etc, results in breeding facilitation of the Anopheles mosquito.
The out of pocket (OOP) burden, according to the commission is “undesirable, forcing families to forego necessary care and causing medical impoverishment”.
According to the Commission, India must invest a lot more in making malaria prevention and treatment tools more affordable and accessible for its citizens.
Speaking about the same, Dr Shailja Singh, Associate Professor at Special Centre for Molecular Medicine, JNU, says, that generalised policies will not work in case of India because the nation in itself is so diverse, and so are the Plasmodium parasites that affect its people.
According to her, to achieve complete eradication, firstly, a large scale surveillance to capture the diverse nature of malaria in India is needed. Secondly, a mass campaign—like in the case of polio—can also help in eradication processes.
The Lancet Commission further notes that eradication of the mosquito will not only reduce mortality, but will also be a financial win for nations, as according to a WHO report, it will result in an estimated gain in GDP of USD 238 billion, which would be a lot higher than the cost of eradicating it—USD 35 billion.