Modernizing Our Arsenal Against Malaria
The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new era of biotech innovation, with the rapid development of new treatments, vaccines, and data-based approaches to public health. Now, a similar mobilization is needed to stay ahead of the constantly evolving malaria parasite and the mosquitos that carry it.
GENEVA – Consider the humble mosquito. When compared to some of the world’s most notorious and vicious predators, it might not look like much. And yet it has killed more people in history than any other creature. As a carrier for some of the world’s deadliest diseases, including malaria, yellow fever, Zika, dengue, and chikungunya, it instills fear in tens of millions of people around the world.
Malaria, the oldest of these diseases, dates back to the time of the dinosaurs and continues to have a devastating impact on people’s lives. Each day, it deprives thousands of young people of a future. Among the 400,000 deaths from malaria recorded in 2019, two-thirds were children under the age of five, and almost all lived in Africa.
Throughout my career in public health, I have seen modern technology transform our centuries-old fight against malaria in the space of just a few decades. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying of homes, rapid diagnostic tests, and new treatments and prophylactics were not even part of the conversation when I started work on my medical degree. Now, these interventions are saving lives every day.