5 August 2015
Malaria research under the microscope
Wednesday, 5 August 2015 saw both seasoned and young delegates present more new findings and ground breaking research pertinent to malaria in South Africa at the third day of the largest national gathering of malaria researchers hosted by the South African Medical Research Council in Durban.
The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) is part of a significant paradigm shift that leans towards the elimination of malaria becoming a reality. Professor Rajendra Maharaj, Director of the SAMRC Office of Malaria Research, announced that the SAMRC would be investing R3 Million in three Malaria Research Centres of excellence that would be led by the universities of Cape Town, University of Pretoria and Wits University. This investment will assist the National Department of Health in reaching their goal of malaria elimination by 2018.
Recently, Ministers of Health from Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland signed an agreement to ensure that the malaria control fraternity from each of the countries support the development of infrastructure and expertise in southern Mozambique in order to lower the prevalence of the disease in the border regions of the these countries. The initiative known as MOSASWA will try to emulate the Lubomo Spatial Development Initiative which ended in 2011.
Although there are no vaccines currently available for the prevention or treatment of malaria, GSK recently announced that the SPS,S vaccine has shown tremendous promise in preventing malaria in children below 17 weeks of age and children 5 to 17 months old. In the latter group, the vaccine showed greater promise with an estimated efficacy of 46%. This is the first vaccine to go into human trials and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is confident that the vaccine could be ready for release as soon as October 2015.
In 2014, South Africa recorded approximately 13 900 cases and 174 deaths due to malaria. Approximately 1 000 cases were reported from Gauteng over the same time period. However, these were all imported cases as there is no local transmission of malaria in Gauteng. Although South Africa has met the World Health Organisation (WHO) criteria for targeting elimination, there are still gaps in our knowledge that need to be filled before we can achieve elimination.
One of the key findings of the conference was that communities need to play a larger role in deciding how best to eliminate the scourge of malaria. Second to this, research shows that imported malaria is driving the residual malaria transmission in the country. Measures to curb imported malaria would require cross border interventions being implemented in countries adjacent to South Africa. The meeting also highlighted that insecticide resistance is one of the challenges that needs to be overcome to successfully implement the elimination agenda.
“With the increasing number of malaria cases being reported in South Africa there is a need for cross-border initiatives that will seek to address the issue in the countries where these infections originate from”, said Professor Rajendra Maharaj, Director SAMRC Office of Malaria Research.
The Malaria Research meeting addressed the following areas:
- Funding solutions to aid the malaria elimination programmes in South Africa
- Means of achieving zero local malaria cases
- The effectiveness of current malaria interventions