New strategies needed for elimination of malaria: Experts

Conventionally less lethal malarial parasites are also taking up deadlier forms, they said 

By Jyoti Singh
Published: Thursday 26 September 2019

India has the third highest malaria burden in the world and it contributes the largest number of cases and deaths in the World Health Organization (WHO)'s  South-East Asia region. New strategies are needed for elimination of malaria as the occurrence of the disease is undergoing changes, experts have suggested.  

Earlier, most malaria cases were due to Plasmodium falciparum parasite but new studies shows that Plasmodium vivax is also causing new infections and severe manifestation of the disease. This has emerged from a study done by researchers from SP Medical College, Rajasthan and BITS Pilani.

It is Plasmodium falciparum that is considered to be more deadly but in the past few years Plasmodium vivax has also taken a deadly form. This has been reported from Rajasthan. A few years ago, Plasmodium malariae had also been reported in Odisha.

“There is a change in the spectrum of disease. Previously, cerebral malaria was common but now there is kidney and liver involvement also. Even symptoms of acute respiratory stress syndrome are there. Fatalities are more when there is more than one severe manifestation,” said Sanjay Kumar Kochar from SP Medical College while speaking to India Science Wire on the sidelines of the National Congress of Parasitology which began in New Delhi on September 26, 2019.

He said Plasmodium vivax was being overlooked because mostly it caused symptoms similar to those of falciparum.

The government has developed the National Framework for Malaria Elimination by 2030. Elimination is defined by the WHO as interruption of local transmission or reduction to zero incidences of indigenous cases of malaria parasite species in a defined geographic area. This goal cannot be achieved in Asia or globally without India making substantial progress. There is a decline in the number of malaria cases but the problem is still there as it is a multi-factorial disease.

“We need to have effective resistance-free drugs. It would be good if we can have some personalised drugs for malaria too. Surveillance on the parasite sites is another important aspect where we need to keep an eye. We are just making efforts to keep track of P. falciparum and P. vivax but like in Odisha, we are facing a species new to India, Plasmodium malariae,” said Shailja Singh, associate professor at Special Centre for Molecular Medicine, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The 30th National Congress of Parasitology and Global Summit on Malaria Elimination is being jointly organised by the Special Centre for Molecular Medicine, Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Indian Society for Parasitology. (India Science Wire)

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