The End to Malaria

Malaria has been a scourge of humanity for thousands of years, and as recently as a century ago, was a problem in almost every country. The GIF below shows how far we have come towards completely eradicating this debilitating disease:

shrinking-the-malaria-map

Courtesy of Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco

As recently as the 1950s, developed countries like the U.S. and the U.K. were still dealing with malaria infections; by the 1970s, most wealthy countries had completely wiped it out. Today, over a hundred nations across both the developed and developing world are free of malaria, with nearly thirty others in the process eliminating it.

Nevertheless, malaria continues to claim the lives of 450,000 people annually, with millions more maimed (indeed, the disease has even been attributed to reduced incomes and economic development, since it debilitates so many working-age people). Most of the countries still fighting malaria are in and around the Andes region of South America, throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa, and in parts of central and south Asia. Even in these cases, malaria is usually contained in the poorest and most remote regions, with armed conflict and/or lack of infrastructure frustrating national efforts.

But according to a paper jointly published by the U.N. and the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundations, both of which have helped lead the way in fighting malaria, the rapid decline of the mosquito-borne disease may culminate in its total eradication worldwide by 2040. This achievement is contingent on the convergence of two developments: continued investment in traditional reduction measures, such as bed nets and faster diagnosis and treatment; and developing and implementing better drugs, vaccines, and insecticides (including possibly eliminating malaria-bearing mosquitos themselves).

If we can keep the momentum going, within a generation one of humanity’s most ancient and persistent foes may go the way of smallpox. What a comforting thought for this World Malaria Day.

H/T: The Economist 

 

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