Eliminating Malaria

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Science  28 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6140, pp. 1531-1533
DOI: 10.1126/science.1240539

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Malaria kills more young children than any other infectious disease. The most pernicious causal agent, the protozoan parasite Plasmodium falciparum, is responsible for the death each year of more than half a million children, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Until recently, control efforts were thwarted by pyrimethamineand chloroquine-resistant parasites, whose appearance in Africa was traced back to origins near the Thai-Cambodian border. Fortunately, the discovery of the potent antimalarial properties of artemisinin (1) has helped turn the tide against malaria. Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), which combine a potent but short-lived artemisinin derivative with a longer-lasting partner drug, have now been officially adopted across virtually the entire malaria-endemic world. Their deployment, along with efforts to distribute insecticide-treated bednets, is associated with recent substantial reductions in malaria burden. However, recent studies from Cambodia and now Thailand show that once again resistance is looming as a major threat to global control efforts (see the figure) (2, 3).