Keeping up with Malaria – 4 years and 500 postings

This month marks the 4th year for Malaria Matters and our 500th posting. Two of our first postings we examined what happens to chloroquine when it is no longer used as a first line drug,and how malaria proposals fare at the Global Fund.

Chloroquine was valued because it was inexpensive and therefore justifiably used for presumptive treatment. Resistance showed not only that the presumptive treatment approach was likely flawed, but that single drug or mono-therapy treatments were not appropriate. Research today continues to document the spread of chloroquine resistance for example, in vivax and falciparum malaria in Indonesia.

What our 2006 posting addresses was the fact that chloroquine resistance did reduce after the drug is withdrawn as the front line treatment in Malawi. These findings were backed up by a study from Kenya published last year. The Kenya researchers reported “a reduction in resistance to CQ following official withdrawal in 1999 was found, but unlike Malawi, the decline of resistance to CQ in Kilifi was much slower,”ultimately taking twice as long as it did in Malawi – assuming use remains at a low level.

dscn9149-sm.JPGThe practical research question moving into the future toward malaria elimination is whether an inexpensive drug like chloroquine can ever again find a place in the pharmacological arsenal against malaria. The experiences of both increasing and reducing drug efficacy also stress the importance of maintaining strong pharmaco-vigilence as part of any national malaria control effort.

Concerning the Global Fund we expressed disappointment in 2006 that malaria grants performed so poorly in Round 6 allocations in terms of relative proportion of total grants as well as proportion of submitted grants approved. Since that time the Roll Back Malaria Harmonization Working Group has mobilized human resources to strengthen the grant writing process. Since that time malaria grants have been gaining a greater share of total resources and have had better success in being approved.

According to AIDSPAN, this year’s Round 10 allocations may be a mixed bag for malaria. While 79% of submitted malaria proposals were recommended for approval (better than the 50% overall approval rate), only a small number of proposals were submitted (24) and ultimately approved (19) of the 89 from all sources.

This low ‘turnout’ may reflect the economic constraints at the Global Fund where there had even been some doubt earlier that a Round 10 would be issued, but it reflects poorly on the need to scale up and sustain malaria interventions into 2015 and beyond. This also does not reflect changes in Global Fund approaches such as the rolling continuation credit and the potential move toward funding based on national strategy, all of which are changes at the GFATM since 2006.

Overall once can see that in four short years the funding and technical landscape surrounding the control and elimination of malaria are changing quickly. We are closer now to a vaccine, WHO has updated its malaria treatment guidelines, long awaited rapid diagnostics tests are rolling out in larger quantities, and countries, such as those in southern Africa, that need to develop pre-elimination strategies are being identified. We intend that Malaria Matters will help you keep up with these vital changes.

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