Four people walking down road carrying backpacks and bednets.

Expanded use of bednets and other tools has helped cut the rate of malaria among young Zambian children in half. Photo: David Jacobs.

With effective prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, we can eventually eliminate malaria

What does it take to control malaria? At PATH, we know that there is no single solution. The answer lies in a multipronged approach to better diagnose and treat malaria, apply already-effective tools in communities hardest hit by the disease, and try new tactics to figure out the right solutions for each country.

We know that we can eventually make malaria history. Here’s how we are doing it.

Creating malaria-free communities

Achieving a malaria-free world starts with working community by community to wipe out the parasite that causes the disease. Through PATH’s Malaria Control and Elimination Partnership in Africa (MACEPA), we are working with four countries—Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, and Zambia—to eliminate malaria transmission by the end of 2020.

In Zambia, we are testing the feasibility of new approaches that, if successful, could be scaled up for use across the country and throughout Africa. Collaborating with the Zambia Ministry of Health, we are piloting a new approach called mass drug administration to treat everyone for malaria, whether they have the disease or not. Used in combination with other lifesaving tools, such as insecticide-treated bednets and indoor spraying of insecticides, mass drug administration could be the tool that takes us from impressive decreases in malaria to zones completely free from the disease.

Beginning with the dry season in late spring, trained health care workers and data collectors go door to door administering a combination therapy treatment that removes the malaria parasite and protects people from reinfection for a limited time. The health care workers also conduct diagnostic tests to gauge the prevalence of malaria in the area.

We think three sweeps through each community, two months apart, will significantly decrease malaria among the half million people living in Zambia’s Southern Province—but we need to see the evidence. This rigorous research study will provide us with information both to evaluate the feasibility of mass drug administration and to assess how successful it could be in reducing or eliminating malaria in other parts of Zambia and across the continent.

Scaling up for impact

We’re also looking at how best to help countries continue to reduce malaria illness and death using existing tools—and at expanding the reach of these proven interventions. We continue to advance the use of bednets and other tools. We’re helping countries to enhance malaria surveillance and create malaria-free communities, and to gather evidence that allows them to make the best decisions on how to reduce malaria transmission. In Zambia alone, tactics employed by PATH and our partners have helped cut the rate of malaria among children under age five in half in just two years.

Improving care for those with malaria

Along with these efforts, we are pursuing improvements in care for people already infected with malaria. As the leader of the MalariaCare partnership, we focus on accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment in several countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. Our approach includes:

  • Expanding the use of high-quality diagnostics, including rapid diagnostic tests.
  • Improving treatment and health outcomes for people diagnosed with malaria and other fever-causing illnesses. This includes encouraging more focused use of antimalarial medications and antibiotics for pneumonia and other life-threatening diseases.
  • Facilitating partnerships with the private sector to ensure engagement in improving the management of patients with malaria.

Enhancing diagnosis

To better identify cases of malaria and enable rapid, effective treatment, we’re developing point-of-care diagnostic tests to identify a common genetic trait called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, which can cause severe complications when people who have the deficiency take a specific class of malaria drugs. There is an urgent need for G6PD tests to promote safe access to malaria drugs and improve case management for malaria patients.

We’re also working to speed up access to effective, affordable, and highly sensitive diagnostic tools that detect malaria among people who show few or no symptoms of infection, especially in areas that are very close to malaria elimination.