When we tell the story of malaria today, it is often in stark contrast to just 10 years ago, when a child was dying from the disease every 30 seconds. The fight against malaria has become one of the greatest success stories in public health, with nearly 7 million lives saved and an estimated 60-percent reduction in mortality rates since 2000. Bed nets have been—and continue to be—one of the most crucial factors in this progress, helping to prevent millions of new malaria cases and dramatically reducing deaths, particularly among young children.
Despite these successes, however, the mosquitos that transmit malaria are very clever, continually adapting to the new tools and technologies rolled out to combat them. An emerging challenge currently facing the global malaria community is insecticide resistance, meaning that in certain parts of the world, these mosquitos are becoming less susceptible to the insecticides designed to kill them and to interrupt transmission of the parasite. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), resistance to at least one insecticide has been demonstrated in 60 countries; in about 80 percent of these countries, resistance to two or more insecticides has shown up. These findings have important implications for the use of bed nets treated with insecticides, as well as for indoor spraying, another common method of mosquito control.
One particular challenge has been that until recently, only one class of insecticides (pyrethroids) have been deemed safe enough for use in mosquito nets by the WHO. Fortunately, in recent months WHO has granted approval for a new class of insecticides to be used in areas facing the threat of pyrethroid resistance. Other innovations to combat resistance are also making steady progress. For example, a non-profit partnership called the Insecticide Vector Control Consortium (IVCC) is developing new formulations of insecticide sprays and identifying new classes of active ingredients for use in mosquito control products. Several private sector companies are also working at the forefront of this fight, including Sumitomo Chemical, BASF, Vestergaard Frandsen, NRS and more, helping to leverage their considerable resources and manufacturing expertise to create a positive social impact.
These collective efforts demonstrate not only the resilience and innovative spirit of the global malaria community, but they also underscore the important need for continued resources—particularly from governments and the private sector—in the malaria fight to ensure the disease does not come roaring back in Africa, Asia and beyond.
To learn more about how insecticide resistance occurs and what is being done to combat it, you can check out this short video. And stay tuned for upcoming blog posts that will feature the work of our partners in the fight against insecticide resistance.