January 10, 2014 |

Five historic moments for malaria

A health worker takes blodd samples from a group of children.
In Sinafala village, a health worker takes blood samples from a group of children. Photo: PATH/Gabriel Bienczycki.

Last year was an exciting time in the battle against malaria, with significant advances in resources and new tools adding momentum to the fight. The following is a roundup of the top five malaria-related stories of the past year, as determined by no algorithm whatsoever. So crank up Sarah MacLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” and take a stroll down memory lane, as we look at five moments that made malaria history in 2013.

1. Focus on elimination: Elimination took center stage at the two preeminent malaria conferences, the Pan-African Multisectoral Initiative on Malaria conference in October and the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Meeting in November, demonstrating the world’s growing commitment to stopping transmission of the disease once and for all.

2. Record levels of global support: $12 billion was pledged to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria during last month’s replenishment conference—a 30 percent increase over the previous replenishment in 2010 and the largest amount pledged to date. And while we’re here, let’s not overlook the massive fist bump that the US Congress gave The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in the form of the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2013.

Man in white lab coat looks at a sample through a microscope.
Researchers at centers in Africa are involved in trials of malaria vaccine, results of which are one of our five notable moments in 2013’s malaria history. Photo: PATH/Eric Becker.

3. More lives saved: A big takeaway from this year’s World Malaria Report was new data showing that more lives were saved from malaria over the previous decade than originally thought, with deaths in young children falling by 51 percent since 2000.

4. Innovations in treatment and prevention: Manufacture of a semisynthetic version of artemisinin was launched during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Sanofi plant in Garessio, Italy, last April. The new plant helps bolster the world’s supply of this key ingredient in malaria treatments by up to 150 million doses in 2014 (and reduced the world’s supply of ribbons by one in 2013).

Meanwhile, vaccine candidates also made great strides in 2013. Initial trials found Sanaria’s PfSPZ vaccine candidate to be 100 percent effective in preventing infection of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. The RTS,S vaccine candidate, over 18 months of follow-up in a late-stage study, showed promising results, cutting the number of malaria cases in young children nearly in half and reducing the malaria cases in infants by roughly a quarter.

5. World Malaria Day: Last year’s edition of the annual day that calls attention to malaria efforts worldwide was particularly noteworthy. Zambia and Zimbabwe forged a cross-border partnership. Senegal reaffirmed and celebrated investment. The United States marked the day with a resolution in Congress, and, as seen above, photo booths.

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  • Portrait of Manny Lewis.
    Manny Lewis s a communications assistant in the Malaria Control and Elimination Program at PATH.