Eliminating malaria in the Asia-Pacific could save 400,000 lives

25 April 2019 Bangkok (Thailand) – Increased funding is needed to eliminate malaria across 22 Asia-Pacific countries and save an estimated 400,000 lives, according to research published in a new collection of studies on Wellcome Open Research.

Although Asia-Pacific countries have made significant progress towards their goal of eliminating malaria by 2030, collection researchers warn that stagnating donor funding puts at risk national malaria control efforts and access to lifesaving drugs and other tools, and could, under one potential scenario, result in as many as 845 million more malaria cases and 3.5 million deaths.

Malaria April 2019
A Cambodian child teaches his classmates what he's learned about malaria control, part of MORU's activities to raise community awareness in malaria-endemic areas of the importance of malaria prevention and the importance of early treatment. © MORU 2019. Photographer: Nicky Almasy

“This evidence-based investment case for the region comes from preliminary estimates to quantify the economic benefits of eliminating malaria, which could save hundreds of thousands of lives, avoid millions of malaria cases, and generate billions in healthcare savings, as well as savings from lost wages and productivity due to illness.” said collection advisor and study author Prof Richard Maude from the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Bangkok.

“While the cost of eliminating malaria in the Asia Pacific is not insignificant, it will result in a large return on investment. For every additional dollar spent, there was predicted to be an overall economic benefit of USD $6 for the affected countries,” said lead study author Rima Shretta.

Study author Prof Lisa White of MORU adds, “We made these preliminary estimates using a first of its kind multispecies mathematical and economic modelling approach supported by estimated disease burden and from this we could develop an evidence-based investment case for the region.” 

Eliminating malaria in Asia-Pacific by 2030 is realistic, with significant human benefits – but only if adequately funded, say the study authors, who note that it is important to put pressure on donors and decision-makers to continue funding current efforts – including  fully funding the Global Fund at the upcoming replenishment conference this October.

“In the current climate of decreasing global malaria funding, countries with a lower malaria burden are becoming a lesser priority for donors, but sustained financing needs to be secured to realise this goal of P. falciparum and P. vivax elimination in the Asia-Pacific by 2030,” said study author Sheetal Silal from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

“We hope to raise awareness of the need for increased investment to eliminate malaria and also the potential overall economic benefits of this investment,” said Prof Maude.

The articles in this collection include three research articles, an article on the new software tool and an editorial summarizing the new body of research. All are freely available online on Wellcome Open Researchhttps://wellcomeopenresearch.org/collections/cost_malaria_pred, and will undergo open peer review, where all reports are published alongside the articles with the authors’ responses.

The research is the result of partnership between the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU), with funding support by the Asian Development Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Government.

Media inquiries, kindly contact:  

Bangkok, Asia and Europe: John Bleho, john@tropmedres.ac, +66.81.750.0539 (Thailand/WhatsApp)

USA: Laura J. Newman, Laura.Newman@ucsf.edu     UK:  Alanna Orpen, Alanna.Orpen@f1000.com