Math, maps used to plot malaria elimination plan

Saturday, October 30, 2010

LONDON - With the help of mathematical models and maps, two University of Florida researchers have estimated the feasibility of eliminating malaria from countries that have the deadliest form of the disease.

For five years, Andrew Tatem along with David L. Smith collaborated with a team of scientists, geographers, statisticians and on-the-ground health workers to create a single worldwide database for mapping and modelling P. falciparum transmission.

Smith said the data suggest that Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the deadliest parasite, could be eliminated in most parts of the world in 10 to 15 years, including most areas in Asia and the Americas, if transmission could be reduced by 90 percent from 2007 rates.

Their assessments in are based on malaria’s regional intrinsic transmission, the disease’s toll on crippling health systems and the levels in which population movement help spread malaria across borders.

Tatem and Smith’s analysis may give the public health community a tool it needs to most effectively allocate financial and technical support for regions whose citizens suffer with the disease.

The UF researchers also evaluated the relative feasibility between countries of P. vivax elimination, another deadly form of malaria, though no comparable worldwide database currently exists to map the levels of risk for that strain.

Thirty-two of the 99 countries that still have endemic malaria have started to eliminate the disease from within their borders, and Tatem and Smith assert that, generally, countries in South America appear to be in the best position to succeed at elimination.

Many sub-Saharan African nations rank at the bottom of the researchers’ list of countries of relative feasibility for malaria elimination, including Angola, Chad, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, places plagued by unstable governments and systemic poverty.

“Civil and economic strife is always good for malaria and bad for the people,” said Smith.

He added that there are signs of success in Africa, as several countries have scaled up malaria control programs.

The findings appeared in the British medical journal The Lancet Malaria Elimination Series. (ANI)

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