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Current Special Feature

4. Australia commits $100 million to the fight against malaria in the Asia-Pacific

Ministers and delegates at the Malaria2012: Saving Lives in the Pacific conference held in Sydney Australia have set the ambitious but realistic goal of reducing malaria deaths in the Asia-Pacific region by 75 per cent within three years.

The communique commits to the following actions:

  • To strengthen political and technical leadership in the region and establish the Asia-Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance.
  • - The alliance will be country-led and comprise eminent persons charged with advocating for rapid action to combat drug resistance, and for accelerating the fight against malaria.

    - Working with existing regional institutions the alliance will check our progress.

  • To convene a taskforce to explore options to close the financing gap.
  • To convene a taskforce to improve access to quality antimalarial medicines and technologies in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • To expand the coverage of effective malaria interventions, in partnership with non-government organisations and the private sector.
  • - In areas where Artemisinin resistance has emerged, at risk communities and building health system capacity will be priorities.

  • Identify and coordinate priority research and development to create new tools or improve existing tools for better program and policy impact.

The Australian government has committed $100 million to this fight over four years, including:

  • An estimated $9.5 million through the Three Millennium Development Goals (3MDG) Fund in Myanmar to buy bed nets and to purchase drugs to treat children and their families.
  • $23.5 million to Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea to help local clinics to roll out testing kits for more accurate diagnosis of the disease, community awareness campaigns and insecticide spraying.
  • $2.75 million to the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network to share information and advocate for malaria elimination.
  • $51 million for core funding to multilateral organisations – the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  • $5 million for the World Health Organization to address drug-resistant malaria in the Mekong region. $10 million for malaria research as part of the new AusAID Medical Research Strategy.
  • More information at: http://www.ausaid.gov.au/HotTopics/Pages/Display.aspx?QID=860

    Previous Special Features

    3. Prevalence and intensity of Onchocerca volvulus infection and efficacy of ivermectin in endemic communities in Ghana: a two-phase epidemiological study

    Mike Y Osei-Atweneboana, Jeffrey KL Eng, Daniel A Boakye,John O Gyapong and Roger K Prichard.


    Ivermectin remains a potent microfilaricide. However our results suggest that resistant adult parasite populations, which are not responding as expected to ivermectin, are emerging. A high rate of repopulation of skin with microfilariae will allow parasite transmission, probably with ivermectin-resistant O volvulus, which could eventually lead to recrudescence of the disease.

    Prevalence and intensity of Onchocerca volvulus infection and efficacy of ivermectin in endemic communities in Ghana: a two-phase epidemiological study. The Lancet 2007; 369:2021-2029

    2. WHO marks turning point for 1 billion people

    Partners commit to global action against forgotten diseases

    19 APRIL 2007 | GENEVA -- WHO and key partners are meeting on Thursday and Friday to demonstrate an unprecedented commitment to combat the so-called neglected tropical diseases. This commitment comes from political leaders and ministries of health in affected countries, from development agencies and banks, foundations, scientists, and some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies.

    Most of the neglected diseases are caused by parasites that thrive in impoverished settings, where water supply, sanitation, and housing are poor. Apart from this strong link to poverty, the diseases form a group because they permanently deform and disable large numbers of poor people, trapping them in poverty.

    Worldwide, an estimated 1 billion people – one sixth of the world’s population – are affected by one or more of these diseases. Recent evidence of their severe impact on socioeconomic development has spurred unprecedented commitment to reduce this burden. Control of these diseases is now considered part of the global drive to reduce poverty.

    “This event marks a turning point in the long and notorious history of some of humanity’s oldest diseases,” the WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, said in her opening address. “The burden imposed by these diseases, measured in terms of human misery alone, is unacceptable. We are committed to take action.”

    Safe and effective drugs available

    Most of these diseases were once present across a wide area, but gradually disappeared as standards of living and hygiene improved. The availability of safe and effective drugs in large quantities makes it possible, for the first time in history, to take immediate action against these diseases, without having to wait for gradual improvements.

    The Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania, His Excellency Dr Ali Mohamed Shein, told the meeting, "I would like to emphasize that all these diseases are not neglected, in any way, by the developing countries… We, in Tanzania, for example have recognized, since the dawn of independence, that health status and health service delivery are the core of socio-economic development. We have waged a protracted war against all diseases, which are regarded as a hindrance to development, alongside poverty and ignorance."

    As these diseases affect large numbers of very poor people, the decision by industry to supply drugs for prevention or treatment at low or no cost has also been decisive in turning the tide.

    During the meeting on Thursday, Dr Chan and Merck KGaA's Executive Board Member, Mr Elmar Schnee, signed an agreement aimed at fighting schistosomiasis.

    A donation of 200 million tablets of the drug praziquantel will be given to WHO, with an estimated market value of US$80 million. The agreement could potentially protect millions of children from schistosomiasis, a parasitic worm disease which affects about 180 million people, most of them children in Africa. The 10-year collaboration will boost WHO's schistosomiasis treatment efforts targeted at least developed countries where the disease is highly endemic.

    "This disease is one of the biggest health risks to African children after malaria and this collaboration ensures the chance of a healthy life in countries marked by diseases of poverty," said Mr Schnee.

    New drug strategy

    Cost-effective tools to eliminate several of the neglected tropical diseases exist, some costing as little as 50 US cents per person. Last year, WHO launched a new strategy to improve the simultaneous control of several of the diseases.

    With this Preventive Chemotherapy (PCT) Strategy, a combination of three vital drugs is used to prevent and control a range of parasitic worm diseases all at one time. WHO had secured access to two drugs crucial to the PCT strategy, albendazole and ivermectin. With the agreement signed today, WHO has also secured praziquantel, the drug long considered to be the strategy's "missing link".

    Substantial progress has already been made in the fight to control and eliminate many neglected tropical diseases: The number of leprosy cases has decreased from 5.2 million in 1985 to less than 220 000 cases today and 14.5 million people have been cured of this disease. Guinea worm disease is set for eradication. Previously, only one disease - smallpox - has ever been eradicated.

    This agreement with Merck is the latest in a series of collaborations with the private sector to support the control and possible elimination of the neglected tropical diseases. A list of similar collaborative projects follows below. The meeting this week will set out the next steps required to provide prevention and treatment of the neglected tropical diseases to all who need them and to work towards the elimination of the diseases.

    List of donated medicines from other partners

    Donation Disease
    Albendazole from GlaxoSmithKline Lymphatic filariasis
    Azithromycin from Pfizer Trachoma
    Eflornithine from Sanofi-Aventis Human African trypanosomiasis
    Ivermectin from Merk & Co. Inc. Directly to countries (lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis)
    Multi-Drug Therapy from Novartis Leprosy
    Mebendazole from Johnson & Johnson Soil transmitted helminthiasis
    Melarsoprol from Sanofi-Aventis Human African trypanosomiasis
    Nifurtimox from Bayer HC For Human African trypanosomiasis (clinical trial only) and for treatment of Chagas disease
    Pentamidine from Sanofi-Aventis Human African trypanosomiasis
    Suramine from Bayer Human African trypanosomiasis

    For further information, please contact:

    Tiffany Domingo
    WHO, Geneva
    Tel: +41 22 791 15 40
    Mobile: +41 79 516 31 36

    Gregory Hartl
    Communications Adviser
    WHO, Geneva
    Tel: +41 22 791 4458
    Mobile: +41 79 203 6715

    For more information click here.

    Futher Information

    If you are interested in Neglected Diseases then read the speeches of the WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan located at http://www.who.int/neglected_diseases/en/index.html

    Speeches relating to NTD: http://www.who.int/neglected_diseases/mediacentre/speeches/en/index.html

    Press releases relating to NTD 2003-2007: http://www.who.int/neglected_diseases/mediacentre/releases/en/index.html

    1. Malaria resistance in mosquitoes

    The release of mosquitoes that are resistant to infection with malaria is an interesting idea as a potential control strategy. Research workers at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore Maryland provide interesting results suggesting that genetic resistance to the malaria parasite gives mosquitoes feeding on infected blood a fitness advantage. They put 250 transgenic and 250 wild-type mosquitoes of opposite sexes into a cage, where they fed on mice infected with the Plasmodium berghei parasite. The transgene, which blocks infection through the mosquitoes' gut was found in around 70% of the mosquito population after 10 or so breeding cycles. The prevalence rate of Plasmodium in mosquitoes in nature is usually quite low, nevertheless this work suggests that the transgene could persist in populations.

    Transgenic malaria-resistant mosquitoes have a fitness advantage when feeding on Plasmodium-infected blood. M. T. Marrelli, C. Li, J. L. Rasgon, & M. Jacobs-Lorena. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci., 104 . 5580 - 5583 (2007).

    View this paper