Category Archives: Elimination

Malaria News Today 2020-09-15

Malaria Journal released three articles ranging from the relation between malaria and agricultural irrigation, artemisinin resistance on the Myanmar-China border, and efforts at costing malaria elimination interventions. PLoS Medicine examined the quality of malaria clinical management in children. Finally, Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology reported on a new drug against malaria and toxoplasmosis. Click on links to read more details.

Minimal tillage and intermittent flooding farming systems show a potential reduction in the proliferation of Anopheles mosquito larvae in a rice field in Malanville, Northern Benin

Irrigation systems have been identified as one of the factors promoting malaria disease around agricultural farms in sub-Saharan Africa. However, if improved water management strategy is adopted during rice cultivation, it may help to reduce malaria cases among human population living around rice fields.

A clear reduction of larva density was observed with both intermittent flooding systems applied to minimal tillage (MT?+?IF?+?NL) and intermittent flooding applied to deep tillage (DT?+?IF?+?AL), showing that intermittent flooding could reduce the abundance of malaria vector in rice fields. Recommending intermittent flooding technology for rice cultivation may not only be useful for water management but could also be an intentional strategy to control mosquitoes vector-borne diseases around rice farms.

No evidence of amplified Plasmodium falciparum plasmepsin II gene copy number in an area with artemisinin-resistant malaria along the China–Myanmar border

The emergence and spread of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum poses a threat to malaria eradication, including China’s plan to eliminate malaria by 2020. Piperaquine (PPQ) resistance has emerged in Cambodia, compromising an important partner drug that is widely used in China in the form of dihydroartemisinin (DHA)-PPQ. Several mutations in a P. falciparum gene encoding a kelch protein on chromosome 13 (k13) are associated with artemisinin resistance and have arisen spread in the Great Mekong subregion, including the China–Myanmar border. Multiple copies of the plasmepsin II/III (pm2/3) genes, located on chromosome 14, have been shown to be associated with PPQ resistance.

DHA-PPQ for uncomplicated P. falciparum infection still showed efficacy in an area with artemisinin-resistant malaria along the China–Myanmar border. There was no evidence to show PPQ resistance by clinical study and molecular markers survey. Continued monitoring of the parasite population using molecular markers will be important to track emergence and spread of resistance in this region.

Costing malaria interventions from pilots to elimination programmes

Malaria programmes in countries with low transmission levels require evidence to optimize deployment of current and new tools to reach elimination with limited resources. Recent pilots of elimination strategies in Ethiopia, Senegal, and Zambia produced evidence of their epidemiological impacts and costs. There is a need to generalize these findings to different epidemiological and health systems contexts. Drawing on experience of implementing partners, operational documents and costing studies from these pilots, reference scenarios were defined for rapid reporting (RR), reactive case detection (RACD), mass drug administration (MDA), and in-door residual spraying (IRS). These generalized interventions from their trial implementation to one typical of programmatic delivery. In doing so, resource use due to interventions was isolated from research activities and was related to the pilot setting. Costing models developed around this reference implementation, standardized the scope of resources costed, the valuation of resource use, and the setting in which interventions were evaluated. Sensitivity analyses were used to inform generalizability of the estimates and model assumptions.

Populated with local prices and resource use from the pilots, the models yielded an average annual economic cost per capita of $0.18 for RR, $0.75 for RACD, $4.28 for MDA (two rounds), and $1.79 for IRS (one round, 50% households). Intervention design and resource use at service delivery were key drivers of variation in costs of RR, MDA, and RACD. Scale was the most important parameter for IRS. Overall price level was a minor contributor, except for MDA where drugs accounted for 70% of the cost. The analyses showed that at implementation scales comparable to health facility catchment area, systematic correlations between model inputs characterizing implementation and setting produce large gradients in costs. Prospective costing models are powerful tools to explore resource and cost implications of policy alternatives. By formalizing translation of operational data into an estimate of intervention cost, these models provide the methodological infrastructure to strengthen capacity gap for economic evaluation in endemic countries. The value of this approach for decision-making is enhanced when primary cost data collection is designed to enable analysis of the efficiency of operational inputs in relation to features of the trial or the setting, thus facilitating transferability.

Quality of clinical management of children diagnosed with malaria: A cross-sectional assessment in 9 sub-Saharan African countries between 2007–2018

Appropriate clinical management of malaria in children is critical for preventing progression to severe disease and for reducing the continued high burden of malaria mortality. This study aimed to assess the quality of care provided to children under 5 diagnosed with malaria across 9 sub-Saharan African countries. We used data from the Service Provision Assessment (SPA) survey. SPAs are nationally representative facility surveys capturing quality of sick-child care, facility readiness, and provider and patient characteristics across 9 countries, including Uganda (2007), Rwanda (2007), Namibia (2009), Kenya (2010), Malawi (2013), Senegal (2013–2017), Ethiopia (2014), Tanzania (2015), and Democratic Republic of the Congo (2018).

In this study, we found that a majority of children diagnosed with malaria across the 9 surveyed sub-Saharan African countries did not receive recommended care. Clinical management is positively correlated with the stocking of essential commodities and is somewhat improved in more recent years, but important quality gaps remain in the countries studied. Continued reductions in malaria mortality will require a bigger push toward quality improvements in clinical care. Despite increases in the distribution of malaria tests and effective antimalarial medications, significant gaps in the quality of care for pediatric malaria are present in these 9 countries. Further improvements in quality of malaria care may require a better understanding of remaining barriers and facilitators to appropriate management.

Novel drug could be a powerful weapon in the fight against malaria and toxoplasmosis

Princeton researchers are making key contributions toward developing a promising new treatment for the widespread and devastating diseases toxoplasmosis and malaria.
The Princeton scientists specialize in preparing the drug compound into a medicine that is both safe and effective for humans and able to reach its intended sites of action in the body in sufficient doses. An international team of scientists found the new drug—designated JAG21—to be highly effective against parasites in cell-based studies in the lab. After the discovery, team representatives contacted Princeton’s Robert Prud’homme for help in translating the JAG21 compound into a deliverable medication. Prud’homme is a co-author of a study, published in June 2020 in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, that describes the compound and its excellent preliminary results in mice.

Malaria News Today 2020-09-10

These malaria and related news and abstracts stress the importance of sentinel surveillance systems, strong political and systems commitment to disease elimination, malachite green loop-mediated isothermal amplification for better malaria detection, and the threat of neglected fungal infections. An article from The Lancet shows that it is not just money that is needed to eliminate malaria, but better management and systems. Finally a bit of history from 18th Century North Carolina is shared. Click the links in each section to learn more about each topic.

Implementation of a malaria sentinel surveillance system in Togo: a pilot study

Since July 2017, 16 health facilities called sentinel sites, 4 hospitals and 12 peripheral care units located in 2 epidemiologically different health regions of Togo, have provided weekly data on malaria morbidity and mortality for the following 3 target groups:?<?5-years-old children,???5-years-old children and adults, and pregnant women. Data from week 29 in 2017 to week 13 in 2019 were analysed.

Each sentinel site provided complete data and the median time to data entry was 4 days. The number of confirmed malaria cases increased during the rainy seasons both in children under 5 years old and in children over 5 years old and adults. Malaria-related deaths occurred mainly in children under 5 years old and increased during the rainy seasons. The mean percentage of tested cases for malaria among suspected malaria cases was 99.0%. The mean percentage of uncomplicated malaria cases handled in accordance with national guidelines was 99.4%. The mean percentage of severe malaria cases detected in peripheral care units that were referred to a hospital was 100.0%. Rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination therapies were out of stock several times, mainly at the beginning and end of the year. No hospital was out of stock of injectable artesunate or injectable artemether.

These indicators showed good management of malaria cases in the sentinel sites. Real-time availability of data requires a good follow-up of data entry on the online platform. The management of input stocks and the promptness of data need to be improved to meet the objectives of this malaria sentinel surveillance system.

Evaluation of the colorimetric malachite green loop-mediated isothermal amplification (MG-LAMP) assay …

… for the detection of malaria species at two different health facilities in a malaria endemic area of western Kenya. Prompt diagnosis and effective malaria treatment is a key strategy in malaria control. However, the recommended diagnostic methods, microscopy and rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), are not supported by robust quality assurance systems in endemic areas. This study compared the performance of routine RDTs and smear microscopy with a simple molecular-based colorimetric loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) at two different levels of the health care system in a malaria-endemic area of western Kenya.

Patients presenting with clinical symptoms of malaria at Rota Dispensary (level 2) and Siaya County Referral Hospital (level 4) were enrolled into the study after obtaining written informed consent. Capillary blood was collected to test for malaria by RDT and microscopy at the dispensary and county hospital, and for preparation of blood smears and dried blood spots (DBS) for expert microscopy and real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

Results of the routine diagnostic tests were compared with those of malachite green loop-mediated isothermal amplification (MG-LAMP) performed at the two facilities.
A total of 264 participants were enrolled into the study. At the dispensary level, the positivity rate by RDT, expert microscopy, MG-LAMP and RT-PCR was 37%, 30%, 44% and 42%, respectively, and 42%, 43%, 57% and 43% at the county hospital. Using RT-PCR as the reference test, the sensitivity of RDT and MG-LAMP was 78.1% (CI 67.5–86.4) and 82.9% (CI 73.0–90.3) at Rota dispensary.

At Siaya hospital the sensitivity of routine microscopy and MG-LAMP was 83.3% (CI 65.3–94.4) and 93.3% (CI 77.9–99.2), respectively. Compared to MG-LAMP, there were 14 false positives and 29 false negatives by RDT at Rota dispensary and 3 false positives and 13 false negatives by routine microscopy at Siaya Hospital. MG-LAMP is more sensitive than RDTs and microscopy in the detection of malaria parasites at public health facilities and might be a useful quality control tool in resource-limited settings.

Terminating Trachoma. How Myanmar eliminated blinding trachoma.

Download the book  from WHO New Delhi: World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.  Myanmar’s three-phase approach to eliminating trachoma has been a great success, which will certainly continue. The country’s visionary National Eye Health Plan 2017-2021, which is closely aligned with international policies for prevention of blindness, gives confidence that Myanmar will maintain its elimination status. This book chronicles how a combination of good leadership, effective partnerships, health-care facilities and hardworking health-care personnel helped Myanmar eliminate trachoma as a public health problem.

Health sector spending and spending on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and development assistance for health, SDG Progress

Although the progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, which aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, has been assessed in various works, there is less research focusing on tracking spending towards this goal. In this study, spending estimates were used to determine progress in financing the priority areas of SDG3, examine the correlation between outcomes and financing, and identify where resource gains are most required to attain the SDG3 indicators for which data are available.

From 1995 to 2017, domestic health spending was determined, disaggregated by source (government, out-of-pocket, and prepaid private) for 195 countries and territories. Outcomes suggest a global rise in total health spending since the state of the SDGs in 2015, reaching $7·9 trillion (7·8–8·0) in 2017, and is estimated to rise to $11·0 trillion (10·7–11·2) by 2030, although with substantial disparity across countries. Per estimates, low-income and middle-income countries, in 2017, had an estimated spending of $20·2 billion on HIV/AIDS, $10·9 billion on tuberculosis, and $5·1 billion on malaria in endemic countries.

Although there is an increase in both domestic government and DAH spending, across these three diseases, variation in the accompanied changes in outcomes was observed. Malaria was noted to have the most consistent reductions in outcomes across countries as spending has raised. Findings thereby suggest mixed progress towards meeting the SDG3 targets; the progress varied by country and by target. The evidence on the scale-up of spending and improvements in health outcomes suggest a nuanced relationship, such that outcomes do not always improve with increases in spending.

Although more resources may be required by the countries to achieve SDG3, there will also be a necessity for addressing other constraints in the broader health system such as inefficient allocation of resources across interventions and populations, weak governance systems, human resource shortages, and drug shortages.

Ignored fungal infections kill more people annually than HIV and malaria combined

Carolina Pohl-Albertyn says that, “You may also know that there are other infections causing great concern, such as HIV (690 000 deaths/year), tuberculosis (1.5-million deaths/year), and malaria (405,000 deaths/year). But what would be your reaction if you knew that fungal infections (ranging from skin and mucosal infections (e.g. vaginal or oral thrush) to deadly systemic and organ infections (e.g. candidiasis, cryptococcal meningitis, and bronchopulmonary aspergillosis]) affect more than one-billion people each year, of which more than 150-million cases are severe and life-threatening and cause 1.7 million deaths per year?”

Malaria was once scourge in Chowan County, North Carolina

Nicole Bowman-Layton (Editor) provides some history of malaria. It’s fascinating to think that less than 100 years ago this disease was still a major scourge in Chowan County. I’ve wanted to write about this topic for a long time since the coronavirus popped up but was a bit concerned about writing about a somewhat depressing topic.

According to NCPedia malaria came to North Carolina in the 1500s from some of the first European explorers who were bitten by our friendly Anopheles mosquitoes and then transmitted to the native population. And as we well know, we live in a very damp environment surrounded by sitting water which certainly increases the harvest of mosquitos. Some of the most prominent Revolutionary Edentonians suffered from the “Ague” during their lives. Declaration signer Joseph Hewes suffered from “intermittent fever and ague” throughout his life which were certainly symptoms of malaria.

The German traveler Dr. Johan Schoepf wrote in his book Travels in the Confederation, 1783-1784, of “…the sickliness of the inhabitants, especially prevalent in the low, overflowed, and swampy parts of this country, and giving the people a pale, decayed, and prematurely old look. This is the case not only about Edenton, but along the entire low-lying coast, which this fall, from Virginia to South Carolina, was visited with numerous fevers.

NTD News Today 2020-09-09 from ASTMH

The current table of contents from the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene features several important articles on neglected tropical diseases and malaria. Below are abstracts of several with links to the journal.

Agent-Based Simulation for Seasonal Guinea Worm Disease in Chad Dogs

The campaign to eradicate dracunculiasis (Guinea worm [GW] disease) and its causative pathogen Dracunculus medinensis (GW) in Chad is challenged by infections in domestic dogs, which far outnumber the dwindling number of human infections. We present an agent-based simulation that models transmission of GW between a shared water source and a large population of dogs. The simulation incorporates various potential factors driving the infections including external factors and two currently used interventions, namely, tethering and larvicide water treatments.

By defining and estimating infectivity parameters and seasonality factors, we test the simulation model on scenarios where seasonal patterns of dog infections could be driven by the parasite’s life cycle alone or with environmental factors (e.g., temperature and rainfall) that could also affect human or dog behaviors (e.g., fishing versus farming seasons).

We show that the best-fitting model includes external factors in addition to the pathogen’s life cycle. From the simulation, we estimate that the basic reproductive number, R 0, is approximately 2.0; our results also show that an infected dog can transmit the infection to 3.6 other dogs, on average, during the month of peak infectivity (April). The simulation results shed light on the transmission dynamics of GWs to dogs and lay the groundwork for reducing the number of infections and eventually interrupting transmission of GW.

Village Response to Mass Drug Administration for Schistosomiasis in Mwanza Region, Northwestern Tanzania

Are We Missing Socioeconomic, Cultural, and Political Dimensions?

Praziquantel (PZQ)-based mass drug administration (MDA) is the main approach for controlling schistosomiasis in endemic areas. Interventions such as provision and use of clean and safe water, minimizing contacts with infested water, disposal of human waste in latrines, and snail control provide additional key interventions to break the transmission cycle and could complement and perhaps sustain the benefits of MDA. However, all interventions deployed need to be accepted by the targeted communities. A qualitative study was conducted to examine factors that might differentiate villages which did not show a substantial decrease in Schistosoma mansoni prevalence despite repeated, high treatment coverage referred to as “persistent hotspot villages” from villages which showed a substantial decrease in prevalence referred to as “responding (RES) villages.” A convenient sample of adults was drawn from eight villages. Thirty-nine key informants were interviewed and 16 focus groups were held with a total of 123 participants. Data were analyzed manually using a thematic content approach. In both hotspot and RES villages, schistosomiasis was not considered to be a priority health problem because of its chronic nature, lack of knowledge and awareness, and poverty among study communities.

Hotspot villages exhibited poor leadership style, lack of or insufficient social engagement, little or lack of genuine community participation, little motivation, and commitment to schistosomiasis control compared with RES villages where there were commitment and motivation to fight schistosomiasis. We support the view of scholars who advocate for the adoption of a biosocial approach for effective and sustainable PZQ-based MDA for schistosomiasis control.

Assessment of Incubation Period of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis due to Leishmania major in Tunisia

The period between the infective sandfly bites and appearance of cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) lesions is still hypothetical and little studied. This work aimed at assessing the incubation time of zoonotic CL (ZCL) due to Leishmania major using a standardized methodology. The retrospective analysis used the epidemiological, clinical, and biological information available in the database recording all the CL cases diagnosed at the Parasitology Department of the Pasteur Institute of Tunis during 2015–2019. It allowed for the selection of 92 privileged observations 1) of confirmed CL cases with presentation suggestive of ZCL form 2) living in northern regions free of ZCL 3) with a single infective trip of less than a week to ZCL foci during transmission season and 4) with accurate dates of travel and onset of lesions. Incubation length computed in this population ranged from 1 to 21 weeks, with a median of 5 weeks (interquartile range: 3–8.5 weeks).

Schistosoma mansoni Vector Snails in Antigua and Montserrat

Snail-Related Considerations Pertinent to a Declaration of Elimination of Human Schistosomiasis.

Investigations leading to a WHO-validated declaration of elimination of schistosomiasis transmission are contemplated for several countries, including Caribbean island nations. With assistance from the Pan American Health Organization, we undertook freshwater snail surveys in two such nations, Antigua and Barbuda, and Montserrat in September and October 2017. Historically, the transmission of Schistosoma mansoni supported by the Neotropical vector snail Biomphalaria glabrata occurred in both countries. Transmission on the islands is thought to have been interrupted by the treatment of infected people, improved sanitation, introduction of competitor snails, and on Montserrat with the eruption of the Soufrière volcano which decimated known B. glabrata habitats. Guided by the available literature and local expertise, we found Biomphalaria snails in seven of 15 and one of 14 localities on Antigua and Montserrat, respectively, most of which were identified anatomically and molecularly as Biomphalaria kuhniana.

Two localities on Antigua harbored B. glabrata, but no schistosome infections in snails were found. For snail-related aspects of validation of elimination, there are needs to undertake basic local training in medical malacology, be guided by historical literature and recent human schistosomiasis surveys, improve and validate sampling protocols for aquatic habitats, enlist local expertise to efficiently find potential transmission sites, use both anatomical and molecular identifications of schistosomes or putative vector snail species found, if possible determine the susceptibility of recovered Biomphalaria spp. to S. mansoni, publish survey results, and provide museum vouchers of collected snails and parasites as part of the historical record.

Decreased Mortality of falciparum Malaria in Anemic Prisoners of War?

Modern clinical trials have suggested that anemia protects against malaria mortality. Military records of the Second World War in Asia were examined to see if there was support for this hypothesis. When relatively well-nourished Imperial Japanese Navy sailors captured on Nauru (n = 799) were imprisoned on the Fauro Islands, 26% died from falciparum malaria. Similarly treated but very malnourished colocated Imperial Army soldiers experienced low stable malaria mortality. One-fifth of previously healthy Australian Army soldiers (n = 252) retreating from New Britain died largely because of malaria in April 1942. Malnourished prisoners of war, who were as a group very anemic, both Australian Army soldiers in Thailand and Japanese Army soldiers in Papua New Guinea, had high malaria rates but very low (< 3%) mortality rates. Malaria immunity does not adequately explain this dichotomy, suggesting that severe nutritional deprivation may be protective against malaria mortality possibly because of iron-deficiency anemia.

Malaria News Today 2020-09-03

Various updates were found in newsletters and journal abstracts online today. These looked at mosquitoes – what attracts them to people, how ookinetes move in the midgut, and how perlite from volcanic rock may be a barrier repellent. Nigeria reports that there is no ACT resistance – so far.  And malaria partners join to coordinate actions in Uganda.  Click on links to read details.

Nigeria yet to detect resistance of malaria parasite to ACTs, says ministe

Contrary to reports that Africa has for the first time identified resistance strain of the malaria parasite to the drug of choice, Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT), the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire, on Monday said a study conducted in three states of the country showed there is no such phenomenon in Nigeria.  “However, we are still monitoring the situation. We insist that people should conduct a malaria test before using the drug of choice. This we hope will help prevent any kind of resistance of the malaria parasite to ACTs.”

Ministry of Health launches the Malaria Free Uganda Fund

Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng told journalists in Kampala today that the idea of having this new board was reached after realizing that different entities have been conducting the same malaria control related work. She said that the ministry resolved that mainstreaming responsibility will remove financial and operational bottlenecks that deter them from achieving set targets for elimination of the disease. The fund with a board of 11 members is chaired by Kenneth Wycliffe Mugisha of the Rotarian Malaria Partners-Uganda.

Volcanic Rock Yields a New Kind of Insecticide for Mosquitoes

Insecticide resistance to pesticides has become widespread in mosquito populations, making insecticides less effective over time. Therefore, there is an urgent need for insecticides with alternative modes of action. tested a material derived from volcanic rock, perlite, as a potential non-chemical insecticide against Anopheles gambiae, one of the primary mosquitoes that spreads malaria in Africa. In their new report published in August in the Journal of Medical Entomology, they show that perlite has encouraging potential as a mechanical insecticide. Perlite is believed to act by causing dehydration in the mosquitoes. read more…

Mosquitoes love pregnant, beer-drinking exercisers with Type O blood

Mosquitoes spread Zika, West Nile, Chikungunya, Dengue, and Malaria, resulting in 700 million illnesses a year and a million deaths. Even if you don’t get sick from a mosquito bite, the blood thinner they pump into your flesh before draining your blood causes swelling and itching. This article in Smithsonian Magazine lists the factors that make some people more tempting targets than others to mosquito bites. They include:

  • Blood type: “One study found that in a controlled setting, mosquitoes landed on people with Type O blood nearly twice as often as those with Type A.”
  • Carbon Dioxide: “people who simply exhale more of the gas over time—generally, larger people—have been shown to attract more mosquitoes than others.”
  • Exercise: “mosquitoes find victims at closer range by smelling the lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia and other substances expelled via their sweat”
  • Skin bacteria: “scientists found that having large amounts of a few types of bacteria made skin more appealing to mosquitoes”
  • Beer: “Just a single 12-ounce bottle of beer can make you more attractive to the insects”
  • Pregnancy: “pregnant people exhale about 21 percent more carbon dioxide and are on average about 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than others”
  • Clothing color: “wearing colors that stand out (black, dark blue or red) may make you easier to find”
  • Genetics: “underlying genetic factors are estimated to account for 85 percent of the variability between people in their attractiveness to mosquitoes”

Live In Vivo Imaging of Plasmodium Invasion of the Mosquito Midgut

Malaria is one of the most devastating parasitic diseases in humans and is transmitted by anopheline mosquitoes. The mosquito midgut is a critical barrier that Plasmodium parasites must overcome to complete their developmental cycle and be transmitted to a new host. Here, we developed a new strategy to visualize Plasmodium ookinetes as they traverse the mosquito midgut and to follow the response of damaged epithelial cells by imaging live mosquitoes. Understanding the spatial and temporal aspects of these interactions is critical when developing novel strategies to disrupt disease transmission.

Tropical Diseases and the World Health Assembly 73rd Meeting

If it were not difficult enough to guide global health during a pandemic, some world leaders are trying to deflect attention from the real dangers at hand to score on their petty political concerns. In the meantime, we need to focus on what tropical health and disease issues may actually be coming under consideration at the virtual WHA 73.

Agenda item 3 (A73/CONF./1 Rev.1) or “COVID-19 response Draft resolution” directly addresses the concerns of many that other major deadly diseases and essential services should not be further neglected. The large group of resolution proponents urge countries and organizations to,

“Maintain the continued functioning of the health system in all relevant aspects, in accordance with national context and priorities, necessary for an effective public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other ongoing epidemics, and the uninterrupted and safe provision of population and individual level services, for, among others, communicable diseases, including by undisrupted vaccination programmes, neglected tropical diseases, noncommunicable diseases, mental health, mother and child health and sexual and reproductive health and promote improved nutrition for women and children, recognizing in this regard the importance of increased domestic financing and development assistance where needed in the context of achieving UHC.”

In Provisional agenda item 23 (A73/32) “Progress reports by the Director-General” we find updates on guinea worm eradication and the burden of snakebite envenoming. The report notes the situation in 2019, which is a far cry from the millions of cases in the 1980d when the dracunculiasis eradication effort was launched. “In 2019, three countries reported a total of 53 human indigenous cases of dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease), namely, Angola (one case), Chad (48 cases) and South Sudan (four cases), from a total of 28 villages. Cameroon reported one human case, probably imported from Chad.”

It is important to note that, “The global dracunculiasis eradication campaign is based on both community and country-focused interventions,” where community members play an important role in surveillance and notification. This includes at-risk and border areas, as is being done in Cameroon. The challenge of human Dracunculus medinensis infection in dogs continues and points to the importance of One Health in the control and elimination of NTDs. Surveillance is not cheap, and the report stresses that funds are still needed so that international partners can continue to ensure that the last case of guinea worm is detected and contained.

Moving from the smaller serpent to the larger variety, the report recalls the May 2018 World Health Assembly resolution WHA71.5 on addressing the burden of snakebite envenoming. A global strategy, “Snakebite envenoming: a strategy for prevention and control” was launched in  in May 2019. The WHO Secretariat has “fostered international efforts to improve the availability, accessibility and affordability of safe and effective antivenoms for all, through assessments of antivenom manufacturing, training programs and stockpile procedures.

Finally, provisional agenda item 11.8 (A73/8) addresses a “Draft road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021–2030.” This builds on resolution WHA66.12 (2013) on WHO’s earlier road map for accelerating work to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases (2012–2020). The proposed interventions build on important principles including:

  1. Tackling neglected tropical diseases through support of the vision of universal health coverage
  2. Adopting grassroots approaches that enable access to some of the world’s poorest, hard-to reach communities and people affected by complex emergencies
  3. Monitoring progress against neglected tropical diseases as a litmus test of progress towards the achievement of universal health coverage

The report notes that “40 countries, territories and areas have eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease,” most notably dracunculiasis (as mentioned above, lymphatic filariasis and trachoma. Although “substantive progress has been made since 2012, it is evident that not all of the 2020 targets will be met.” Hence, a new draft road map for neglected tropical diseases for 2021–2030 is required. The three pillars supporting the new roadmap are outlined in the attached figure.

It is good to know that the 73rd World Health Assembly will not be completely overshadowed by COVID-19 and politics. Efforts to sustain and improve NTD control and elimination must not be jeopardized.

Zero Malaria Starts after Lockdown?

The novel 2019 coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 and SARS-COV2, is casting a heavy shadow over the 2020 World Malaria Day. People are trying to remain upbeat declaring the tagline “zero malaria starts with me,” but nothing can hide the fear that the current pandemic will both disrupt the current delivery of essential malaria preventive and treatment services, but will have longer term impacts on malaria funding and our capacity to learn new ways to reach malaria elimination goals. As we can see in the graphic to the right, accessible, lifesaving, community-based services may be especially hard hit.

Another ironic image is the indoor residual spray (IRS) team member with a face mask needed for protection from the insecticides being sprayed. When will such teams be able to go back into homes? When can household members actually pack out their belongings so that spraying can commence? When will such masks not be needed for intensive care COVID-19 case management instead?

WHO is urging “countries to move quickly to save lives from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa” because “New analysis supports the WHO call to minimize disruptions to malaria prevention and treatment services during the COVID-19 pandemic.” This will be difficult in high burden countries like Nigeria that are already on lockdown with over 1,000 coronavirus cases detected already. Modeling by WHO and partners has projected, “Severe disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and in access to antimalarial medicines could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa this year compared to 2018.”

The Global Malaria Program offers guidance for tailoring malaria interventions to the present circumstances. Great concern is drawn from previous epidemic situations when observing that, “it is essential that other killer diseases, such as malaria, are not ignored. We know from the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa that a sudden increased demand on fragile health services can lead to substantial increases in morbidity and mortality from other diseases, including malaria. The COVID-19 pandemic could be devastating on its own – but this devastation will be substantially amplified if the response undermines the provision of life-saving services for other diseases.”

Specifically, GMP recommends that national malaria programs should ensure the following:

  • a focal point for malaria is a member of the National COVID-19 Incident Management Team.
  • continued engagement with all relevant national COVID-19 stakeholders and partners.
  • continued access to and use of recommended insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs)
  • continuation of planned targeted indoor residual spraying (IRS)
  • early care-seeking for fever and suspected malaria by the general population to prevent a spike in severe malaria
  • access to case management services in health facilities and communities with diagnostic confirmation through rapid diagnostic tests [RDTs]
  • treatment of confirmed malaria cases with approved protocols
  • continued delivery of planned preventive services normally provided to specific target populations (SMC, IPTi, IPTp)
  • the safety of all malaria personnel and their clients in the process of carrying out the above interventions

In editorial in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene by Yanow and Good address the damaging longer term impact of the present shutdown. “The impacts of research shutdowns will be felt long after the pandemic. Many scientists study diseases that do not share the same obvious urgency as COVID-19 and yet take a shocking toll on human life. For example, malaria infects more than 200 million people and takes the lives of nearly half a million people, mostly young children, each year.1 During laboratory closures and without clinical studies, there will be no progress toward treating and preventing malaria: no progress toward new drugs, vaccines, or diagnostics.”

The case for continuing malaria services to save hundreds of thousands of lives is not difficult to make. The actual implementation during lockdowns and quarantines is a management challenge. The importance of malaria testing to provide patients with appropriate care for the right disease is crucial. The question is whether in resource strapped endemic countries these decisions and management arrangements can be made in a timely fashion and for the long term whether the next generation of research can proceed with much needed new medicines and technologies.

A look at Botswana from WHO’s E-2020 country brief

Botswana is one of a handful of countries in Southern Africa that are nearing malaria elimination targets. The information below is extracted from WHO’s Elimination 2020 program site and shared verbatim.

“Botswana has made impressive progress in reducing indigenous malaria transmission, from a reported 71 000 cases in 2000 to 533 in 2018. Despite significant variation from year to year – with a higher number of malaria cases in 2014, 2016 and 2017 – the country has continued to report an overall decline in both cases and deaths since 2000.

“Challenges faced by Botswana’s national malaria control programme include the perception, in some communities, that malaria is a low priority disease, which can lead to people not protecting themselves with insecticide-treated nets and other WHO-recommended prevention measures. Added to this, some residents do not accept vector control activities such as insecticide spraying inside homes. However, the government’s commitment to eliminate malaria remains strong.

“WHO lists the following Successes in Botswana and the accompanying graph confirms the overall drop, despite some increases:

  • 69% decrease in number of reported malaria cases following outbreaks in 2014, 2016 and 2017;
  • all districts using District Health Information Software 2 (DHIS2) for real-time malaria reporting
  • mapping of all malaria cases at household level and stratification at village level
  • adoption of the Community Acting Together to Eliminate Malaria (CATTEM) approach
    enhanced community monitoring in malarious districts by malaria surveillance agents”

Hopefully with geographical and epidemiological targeting and attention to early warnings about climate change, Botswana can be among the next group of countries achieving malaria elimination.

Malaria Case Management Practice and Elimination Readiness in Five Elimination Districts of Madagascar, 2018

Anjoli Anand,* Favero Rachel, Catherine Dentinger, A. Ralaivaomisa, S. Ramamonjisoa, Elaine Razafimandimby, Jocelyn Razafindrakoto, Katherine Wolf, Laura C. Steinhardt, Julie Thwing, Bryan K. Kapella, M. Rabary, Sedera Mioramalala, Jean Pierre Rakotovao presented a poster on “Malaria Case Management Practice and Elimination Readiness in Five Elimination Districts of Madagascar, 2018” at the 68th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Their findings are shared below.

Madagascar’s Malaria National Strategic Plan 2018-2022 calls for progressive malaria elimination beginning in low-incidence districts (< 1 case/1000). Although an elimination plan has not yet been developed, optimizing access to prompt diagnosis and quality treatment will be its foundation, along with improving outbreak detection and response, and developing an elimination plan.

There was need to understand current practices in preparation for elimination such as estimating current implementation readiness, documenting current diagnosis and treatment practices (case management), Assessing the use of data to inform decision-making and determining the availability of commodities, training and supervision. To assess this readiness and inform planning, we surveyed health facilities (HFs) and communities.

In September 2018, we randomly selected 35 HFs in 5 of the 8 districts identified for elimination, surveyed 41 HWs and 34 community health volunteers (CHVs), and observed 300 clinical encounters between HWs and patients of all ages. Quantitative and qualitative tools were used to collect data. There were a health facility checklist, an interview guide for health facility providers, a clinical observation guide, a community health volunteer CHV) interview guide, and a stakeholder interview guide.

To evaluate elimination readiness, a composite score was assigned to each HF catchment area that incorporates all survey responses based on commodity availability, malaria CM practices, data management, and supervision practices.

In preliminary results, 8 of 34 (24%) CHVs reported that they do not manage children under 5 years (CU5) with fever at the community level. Of 26 CHVs who care for CU5, 18 (69%) identified history of fever as a criterion for suspected malaria, 20 (77%) reported using a malaria rapid diagnostic test (RDT) when evaluating patients reporting fever, and 15 (58%) reported giving antimalarials for a positive RDT. Among treating CHVs, 13 (30%) reported having RDTs, and 11 (42%) reported having antimalarials currently available. A

Among facility-based HWs, 83% identified history of fever as a criterion for a suspected case. Of 120 patients with reported or recorded fever, 56 (47%) were tested with an RDT. Five RDTs were positive; a first-line antimalarial was prescribed to 4 of those patients. This evaluation is a baseline for CM performance as Madagascar establishes elimination targets. In the evaluated districts, CM could be improved by strategies to increase testing at CHV and HF levels and address availability of commodity stocks in the community.

*Affiliations: Epidemic Intelligence Service, Malaria Branch, Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, Center for Global Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, United States; Maternal Child Survival Program, Washington, DC, United States; US President’s Malaria Initiative; US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Antananarivo, Madagascar; Maternal Child Survival Program, Madagascar, Antananarivo, Madagascar; Maternal Child Survival Program, Antananarivo, Madagascar; US President’s Malaria Initiative, Antananarivo, Madagascar; Malaria Branch, Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, Center for Global Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, United States; National Malaria Control Program, Antananarivo, Madagascar

Biology and Malaria Eradication: Are there Barriers?

During a press conference prior to the release of the executive summary of 3-year study of trends and future projections for the factors and determinants that underpin malaria by its Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme), WHO outlined some hopeful signs emanating from the SAGme including

  1. Lack of biological barriers to malaria eradication
  2. Recognition of the massive social and economic benefits that would provide a return on investment in eradication, and
  3. Megatrends in the areas of factors such as land use, climate, migration, urbanization that could inhibit malaria transmission

Concerning the first point, the executive summary notes that, “We did not identify biological or environmental barriers to malaria eradication. In addition, our review of models accounting for a variety of global trends in the human and biophysical environment over the next three decades suggest that the world of the future will have much less malaria to contend with.”

The group did agree that, “using current tools, we will still have 11 million cases of malaria in Africa in 2050.” So one wonders whether there are biological barriers or not.

Interestingly the group did identify, “Potential biological threats to malaria eradication include development of insecticide and antimalarial drug resistance, vector population dynamics and altered vector behaviour. For example, Anopheles vectors might adapt to breeding in polluted water, and mosquito vector species newly introduced to Africa, such as Anopheles stephensi, could spread more widely into urban settings.”

This discussion harkens back to an important conceptual article by Bruce Aylward and colleagues that raised the question in the American Journal of Public Health, “When Is a Disease Eradicable?” They outlined three important criteria that had been proposed at two international conferences in 1997 and 1998.

  1. biological and technical feasibility
  2. costs and benefits, and
  3. societal and political considerations

Their further expansion on the biological issues using smallpox as an example is instructive. They noted that not only are humans essential for the life cycle of the organism, but that there was no other reservoir for the causative virus, and the virus could not amplify in the environment. In short, there were no vectors, as in the case of malaria. The relatively recent documentation of transmission of malaria between humans and other primates of different plasmodium species is another biological concern. At this point, Malaysia, for example, is reporting more cases of Plasmodium knowlesi in humans that either P vivax or P falciparum.

Another biological issue identified by Aylward and colleagues was the fact that smallpox had one effective and proven intervention, the vaccine. Application of the vaccine could be targeted using photograph disease recognition cards as the signs were quite specific to the disease. Malaria has several effective interventions, but most strategies emphasize the importance of using a combination of these, and implementation is met with a number of management and logistical challenges. The signs and symptoms of malaria are confused with a number of febrile illnesses.

Finally, two other issues raised concern. Insecticide resistance was recognized in the first malaria eradication effort, and is raising its head again, as pointed out by SAGme. Comparing smallpox and yaws, the challenge of latent or sub-clinical/asymptomatic infection was mentioned. Malaria too, is beleaguered with this problem.

Clearly, we must not lose momentum in the marathon (not a race) to eliminate malaria, but we must, as WHO stressed at the press conference, increase our research and development efforts to strengthen existing tools and develop new once to address the biological and logistical challenges.

Tropical Health Update 2019-08-04: Ebola, Malaria Vectors, Snakebite and Trachoma

In the past week urban transmission in Goma, a city of at least 2 million inhabitants in eastern Democratic republic of Congo, was documented as a gold miner came home and infected his wife and child. To get a grip on the spread of the disease, DRC is considering another vaccine, not without some controversy. WHO provides detailed guidance on all aspects of response. On the malaria front we have learned more about malaria vectors, natural immunity and reactive case detection.

Ebola Challenges: Vaccines, Urban Transmission

The current Ebola vaccine being deployed to over 150,000 people in North Kivu and Ituri Provinces was itself an experimental intervention during 2016 when it was first used in the largest ever outbreak located in West Africa. BBC reports that, “World Health Organization (WHO) data show the Merck vaccine has a 97.5% efficacy rate for those who are immunised, compared to those who are not.”

The proposed addition of a Johnson and Johnson vaccine would be in that same experimental phase if introduced in DRC now. It has been proven safe as well as effective in other primates. The challenge is that even though the Merck vaccine supplies are near 500,000, this is not enough to cover the potential needs in an area with over 10 million people, although Merck is still producing more. At present, BBC says, “Those pushing for the use of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, had proposed using it to create a protective wall, vaccinating people outside the outbreak zone.” In addition, the new national response team is concerned that “Only about 50% of cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being identified.”

Finally, there is the issue of community mistrust of government workers and challenging logistics. “There are also concerns that the new vaccine – which requires two injections 56 days apart – may be difficult to administer in a region where the population is highly mobile, and insecurity is rife.”

If efforts at vaccination are needed soon in Goma, up to 2 million doses might be needed. Reuters reports that, “Congolese authorities were racing to contain an Ebola epidemic on Thursday, after a gold miner with a large family contaminated several people in the east’s main city of Goma before dying of the hemorrhagic fever.” Readers may recall that the West Africa outbreak of 2014-16 in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia accelerated greatly after infected people went to major cities in search of help.

The miner is the second ‘imported case into Goma, which borders Rwanda, but because his family lives there, he has already infected his wife and one of his 10 children. Contacts are being traced and monitored, but this urban and border threat is one of the factors that led WHO to finally declare the current outbreak a public health emergency.


As we move toward malaria elimination Reactive Case Detection (RCD) has been proposed as an integral part of these efforts with the hopes that is can be conceived of as a way of gradually decreasing transmission, according to an article in Malaria Journal. In fact, the value of RCD may be limited as follows:

  • RCD alone can eliminate malaria in only a very limited range of settings, where transmission potential is very low
  • In other settings, it is likely to reduce disease burden and help maintain the disease-free state in the face of imported infections

Another article looks at “natural exposure to gametocytes that can result in the development of immunity against the gametocyte by the host as well as genetic diversity in the gametocyte.” The researchers learned that there can be variations in immune response depending on season and geography. This information is helpful in planning malaria elimination interventions.

On the vector front a baseline susceptibility testing was conducted in 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa for neonicotinoids. “The target site of neonicotinoids represents a novel mode of action for vector control, meaning that cross-resistance through existing mechanisms is less likely.” The findings will help in the preparation for rollout of clothianidin formulations as part of national IRS rotation strategies by PMI and other partners.

Researchers also called on us to learn more about malaria vectors in other parts of the world. In order to eliminate Plasmodium falciparum from the Caribbean and Central America program planners should consider local vector characteristics such as An. albimanus. They found that, “House-screening and repellent IRS are potentially highly effective against An. albimanus if people are indoors during the evening.”

Vectors are also of concern on the edges of malaria transmission, particularly in South Africa, one of the ‘elimination eight’ countries of the Southern Africa Development Community. Researchers examined the, “potential role of Anopheles parensis and other Anopheles species in residual malaria transmission, using sentinel surveillance sites in the uMkhanyakude District of northern KwaZulu-Natal Province.” They found Anopheles parensis is a potential but minimal vector of malaria in South Africa “owing to its strong zoophilic tendency.” On the other hand, An. arabiensis was found to be the major vector responsible for residual malaria transmission in South Africa. Since these mosquitoes were found in outdoor-placed resting traps, interventions are needed to control outdoor-resting of vector populations.

NTDs of Concern

During the week, the member states of the African Union renewed their commitment to fight and permanently eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases. reported that, “Achievements to date include 1 billion people treated against at least one NTD and 37 countries have completed the removal of at least one NTD.”

Although some reports have discounted the idea of trachoma in Namibia, there may be reason to re-examine the situation. On Twitter Anthony Solomon notes that Namibia needs #trachoma prevalence surveys. A just-completed joint Ministry of Health & Social Services/@WHO mission found active trachoma & trichiasis in Zambezi & Kunene Regions.

The Times of India draws attention to snakebite. It says that “Under-reported and inadequately treated, fatalities in India are estimated at close to 50,000 a year, the world’s highest.”

Overall we can see that the concept of ‘neglect’ has several uses. There is neglect if half of Ebola cases are undetected. There is neglect if we do not understand malaria vectors in low transmission areas. Finally, there is neglect if we do not conduct up-to-date disease surveys to determine whether a disease is present or not. Elimination of tropical diseases is challenging when key processes are neglected.