Q&A: MESA chair talks next steps in the fight against malaria

Regina Rabinovich, chair of Malaria Eradication Scientific Alliance. Photo by: Barcelona Institute for Global Health

BARCELONA — The new research agenda for malaria elimination and eradication — malERA Refresh — was published late last week. This special collection of papers, coordinated by the Malaria Eradication Scientific Alliance, or MESA, and published in PLOS Medicine, will define the global malaria R&D agenda; inform the World Health Organization's evidence-based guidelines and policies; and guide funding.

The agenda, which stresses the need to develop new tools and combine them in a context-specific manner, is the result of consultations with over 180 scientists, malaria program leaders, and policymakers from around the world. Its production was overseen by a leadership group including Pedro Alonso, director of WHO's Global Malaria Programme; as well as experts from Harvard, the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, and MESA, with headquarters at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health.

It notes that the progress in R&D in malaria since 2011 has been matched by challenges such as the expansion of drug and insecticide resistance and knowledge gaps, particularly with regard to low disease transmission settings and ways to prevent disease reintroduction. Solutions to these challenges require iterative, transformative, and integrated innovation, it says, including improving existing tools and developing new tools to reduce parasite transmission.

The 2017 WHO World Malaria Report, also released last week, warned that progress in fighting the disease has stalled. In 2016, there were an estimated 216 million cases of malaria globally, 5 million more than in 2015, and deaths plateaued at 445,000. In terms of funding, the $2.7 billion invested last year represent less than half of what is required by the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria.

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    Gloria Pallares

    Gloria Pallares is a journalist reporting on sustainable development, global health and humanitarian aid from Africa and Europe. Her work has appeared in a range of publications including El Pais, Forbes, CIFOR’s Forest News and the leading media outlets in Spain via the multimedia newswire Europa Press.