Malaria Consortium urged partners to increase efforts to eliminate malaria, especially because of the emergence of resistance to artemisinin, the best currently available treatment when used in combinations with other drugs, during the Joint International Tropical Medicine Meeting (JITMM) in Bangkok on December 11. The annual meeting brought together leading scientists, NGOs and policy makers working in the field of tropical medicine.
As a key partner in the event, Malaria Consortium’s symposium, entitled “Taking the Resistance out of Elimination”, highlighted current efforts to combat drug resistance in Asia. Areas of focus included the impact of artemisinin resistance on malaria elimination efforts in the region, understanding barriers in reaching mobile and migrant populations, and improving surveillance and information systems.
Although efforts to contain artemisinin resistance have led to a significant decline in malaria incidence, and political will and support remain encouragingly high, resistance is increasing and will be a major bottleneck in efforts to eliminate malaria in Asia. There is also a risk of movement of resistant parasites from Asia to Africa where the burden of malaria is already high and resistance could lead to greater mortality. If we want to eliminate resistance we have to eliminate malaria in the areas where resistance is found.
Keynote presentations were given by Dr Sylvia Meek, Malaria Consortium Technical Director and Dr John R. MacArthur, Chief, Programme Implementation Unit, Malaria Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Addressing the event, Dr Meek, said: “Malaria elimination is still feasible in the region as long as time is not lost and funding is steady. There is also a need to fast-track elimination in areas with artemisinin resistance. There is little to lose as long as our approach builds on strengthening control in all risk areas. If we abandon artemisinin resistance response, malaria control will be set back 30 years.”
Dr John R. MacArthur said: “We have seen an unprecedented financial, political and technical commitment in efforts to eliminate malaria. The economic strengthening of Asia is key to this.”
Other presentations included Malaria Consortium’s surveillance activities in Cambodia; positive deviance to improve malaria outcomes in Myanmar and the current status of the Greater Mekong sub-Regional countries towards the containment of drug resistance and elimination.
Speaking at the event, Dr Apinya Niramitsantipong, Medical Officer, Bureau of Vector-Borne Disease said: “With the right strategies, technology and collaboration, our goal in the next three years will be no more transmission of malaria in most areas of Thailand. The challenges to the elimination of malaria are antimalarial drug resistance and the movement of populations. With sustained financial support this will be possible.”
The theme of the 2013 Joint International Tropical Medicine Meeting, Towards Global Health: an Asian Paradigm of Tropical Medicine, aimed to address issues around malaria, dengue and other diseases.