Malaria: The Resistance Threat
Vector Control Insecticides have been successful in preventing cases of malaria but worryingly, many believe that resistance to insecticides may now be reaching a tipping point. Additional funding is the answer.
Malaria is a preventable disease; yet, tragically, every year, more than 600,000 people die from it — mostly children under five years of age.
Despite these alarming figures, however, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over one million lives have been saved in the past decade, and over 274 million malaria cases averted. This has been achieved by ‘vector control’ — through the spraying of specific public health insecticides (Indoor Residual Sprays, or IRS) in homes and the use of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (LLINs).
There is a problem, however, says Dr Nick Hammon, CEO IVCC, a registered charity which wants to reduce transmission of insect borne pathogens through improved insect vector control with innovative products: mosquitoes are developing a widespread and rapidly increasing resistance to all vector control insecticides.
“Many scientists now consider that we are approaching a tipping point,” he says, “when our ability to control mosquitoes with insecticides may be lost, jeopardizing the achievements of the last decade and compromising our ability to further reduce disease burden on our path towards malaria eradication.”
IVCC says that it has nine novel chemistries in the pipeline and three will advance to full developmen — although it will take an estimated 7-10 years to register these technologies and make them available to the public. With its partners, the organisation has also developed tools to maximize the performance of new and existing vector control insecticides. But more action is needed — and needed now. Unfortunately, innovation in vector control is largely donor funded, says Hammon, because the global market is too small and development costs are too high for companies to take the financial risks involved in developing new insecticides for public health use. “This is the main reason why no new public health insecticides have been developed in more than 30 years,” he insists.
“A successful public-private partnership that develops new public health products requires long term committed stakeholders, funding, true partnership and a focus on delivering on the mission,” says Hammon. “However, bringing new and improved vector control technologies to market does not come cheap, and additional funding is needed to support the high cost of getting safe and effective solutions to those that need them.”