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Malaria remains global health threat

Wednesday December 14th, 2011

Successes against malaria are under threat, according to a new World Health Organisation report published yesterday.

It covers the latest available figures on malaria cases and deaths, outlining the most recent trends and information on drug and insecticide resistance in malaria-endemic countries. It also includes, for the first time, individual profiles for all 99 countries with ongoing malaria transmission.

Mortality from malaria has fallen by more than 25 per cent overall since 2000, says the report, and by 33 per cent in Africa.

In 2010 there were an estimated 655,000 malaria deaths - 36,000 lower than in 2009.

This is due to "a significant scaling-up of malaria prevention and control measures in the last decade, including the widespread use of bed nets, better diagnostics and a wider availability of effective medicines to treat malaria", according to the report.

But progress is under threat from a projected shortfall in funding and emerging drug and insecticide resistance, it says.

The situation must be proactively addressed, warns Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. She said: "We are making significant progress in battling a major public health problem. But there are worrisome signs that progress might slow.

"The mortality figures are still disconcertingly high for a disease that is entirely preventable and treatable. One child still dies every minute from malaria - and that is one child too many," she adds.

Meanwhile, new research in the Lancet Infectious Diseases yesterday (December 13) shows that malaria significantly increases the risk of miscarriage during the first trimester of pregnancy, even when asymptomatic.

But Dr Rose McGready of the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit in Thailand says: "Our study offers some good news, that the most common drugs reduce this risk significantly."

Adverse effects of falciparum and vivax malaria and the safety of antimalarial treatment in early pregnancy: a population based study. McGready, R. et al. The Lancet Infectious Diseases December 13 2011 DOI:10.1016/S1473-3099(11)70339-5.

Tags: Child Health | General Health | World Health

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