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"In the last 15 years malaria morbidity and mortality have decreased by 50%, but mosquitoes are more resistant."

Scientists from the University's high school of Tropical Health highlight the latest advances in the treatment of this disease on "World Malaria Day".

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Carlos Chaccour and Silvia Galiano
PHOTO: Manuel Castells and Ceded
25/04/16 12:34 Patricia Sainz

Fighting malaria has become a fight against the adaptive capacity of the mosquito that transmits it. Researchers from the high school of Tropical Health of the University of Navarra (ISTUN) reflect, on the occasion of World Malaria Day, which is celebrated this Monday, April 25, on the challenges in the study of this disease, highlighting the ability of the transmitting parasite to present resistance to both drugs and insecticides.

"Our main challenge lies in identifying new antimalarial drugs with an effective mechanism of action against multidrug-resistant parasite strains," explains Silvia Galiano, principal investigator of group from research of Chemistry Médica. "In fact, during the last few years we have identified two antimalarial compounds with excellent efficacy and a promising toxicological profile that have recently been patented." In this regard, "we are also employing the use of proteomics in combination with molecular biology and affinity chromatography strategies to gain insight into the mechanism of action of these compounds."

For his part, Carlos Chaccour, also researcher principal at ISTUN within the group of Ivermectin, points out that "between 2000 and 2015, malaria morbidity and mortality was reduced by 50% and that a large part of this effect was due to the widespread use of mosquito nets and insecticides, however, little by little the mosquitoes have become more resistant both qualitatively and quantitatively. Therefore, the use of ivermectin is emerging as a potential tool to attack this problem and meet the expectations of the Global Technical Strategy against malaria (2016-2030) of the World Health Organization (WHO) whose goal is to reduce morbidity and mortality by 90% and eradicate the disease in 35 countries."

Malaria, health and social consequences Economics

According to WHO, malaria continued to be transmitted in 95 countries and territories in 2015 and nearly 3.2 billion people, almost half of the world's population, were at risk of contracting malaria. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region; in fact, 88% of cases and 90% of deaths last year occurred in this area.

In addition to the devastating effects of this disease among the population, especially among children, the researchers stress that ending this ailment would lead to an improvement in the economic status . "The new action plan requires an investment of 100 billion dollars, however, this would then have an impact on the world's Economics generating 4 trillion dollars. In other words, the return on investing in malaria would be 40:1, making it one of the best bets in global health," adds Chaccour. "Moreover, among other things, it would increase productivity, reduce school absenteeism and could even improve the healthcare system by making resources available to treat other diseases.