At major malaria conference, talk of fast-tracking three candidates by 2014 as scientists warn resistance “could be devastating”
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA (6 OCTOBER 2013) – An international product development partnership has identified more than eight new compounds capable of killing insecticide-resistant mosquitoes and will pick three to move quickly to market amidst fears that rising resistance in Africa will erode dramatic progress against the disease, according to a presentation delivered today at a major global gathering of malaria researchers.
The move by IVCC (Innovative Vector Control Consortium) to develop a trio of new mosquito-fighting chemicals comes as more and more mosquitoes are becoming impervious to available insecticides—particularly the so-called “pyrethroids” widely used in long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (LLINs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS) operations. The scale-up of these interventions has been given much of the credit for averting 1.1 million deaths from malaria between 2000 and 2010, with most of that progress occurring in Africa.
IVCC believes that with continued proper funding and assuming they meet regulatory standards, it would be technically feasible to have new products on the market by as early as 2020.
“We now have more than eight candidates all showing high potential against mosquitoes that are resistant to existing insecticides, and by the end of 2014, three will be tapped for full development,” said Nick Hamon, CEO of IVCC, who is in Durban, South Africa for the Sixth Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) Pan-African Malaria Conference—the world’s largest gathering of malaria experts.
“We will need to do rigorous testing and of course subject them all to comprehensive environmental, safety and regulatory review,” Hamon added, “but we are very upbeat about what we have and the fact that each of these candidates has a different way of attacking mosquitoes.”
He said IVCC is committed to developing three new insecticides simultaneously as a way to prevent the mosquito from rapidly developing resistance to an individual product. Hamon said that if malaria-endemic countries have three new products that each take a different biological tact (mode of action) to killing mosquitoes and deploy them with a comprehensive resistance management plan, they should be able to keep mosquitoes under control in malaria-endemic regions for decades to come.
“Three new insecticides will provide an essential element in the push to eradicate malaria,” he said.
IVCC originally was started with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a way to stimulate more private sector interest in developing products to control insect-borne diseases. It partners closely with many of the biggest companies in international agriculture, including Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, DuPont, Sumitomo Chemical Company and Dow Chemical Company. In the last month it has received a £12 million commitment (about $19 million) from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and $9 million from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Hamon said the choice of which candidates to move forward will depend on a range of factors. In addition to product efficacy, IVCC is looking for partners committed to seeing a product through the environmental and regulatory review process and providing it at a price that would be affordable in Africa. Hamon said IVCC also is looking for additional partners who can help share the costs of moving the new compounds to market, which could range from US $100 to $300 million per product.
A RACE AGAINST TIME
In a plenary talk at the MIM conference, Hilary Ranson, head of the department of vector biology at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, noted that today LLINs and IRS campaigns in Africa are “reliant on a very small number of classes of insecticides.” She noted that all LLINs and many IRS programs use pyrethroids, and that resistance to this class of insecticides is “now widespread across Africa and increasing in both prevalence and intensity every year.” In addition, she said there are a growing number of reports of mosquito populations exhibiting resistance to the other remaining insecticides.
“Opinion differs on the current impact of this resistance,” she said. “But there cannot be any doubt that, if left unchecked, the increase in resistance levels will lead to control failure. The effects could be devastating with up to half the lives currently saved by vector control lost.”
Other presentations at MIM simultaneously offered evidence of both effectiveness of using insecticides to control malaria and the vulnerability of existing compounds to resistance.
Researchers from the Entomological Research Center in Benin reported on a study regarding that country’s efforts since 2008 to use the insecticide bendiocarb as way to address widespread resistance to pyrethroids in areas targeted for IRS campaigns. In communities where spraying occurred with bendiocarb, malaria transmission fell by up to 70 percent.
The researchers found that, overall, bendiocarb was a good alternative to pyrethroids. But two years after bendiocarb was adopted for IRS campaigns, the researchers documented decreasing susceptibility among mosquitoes in northern Benin.
“The emergence of bendiocarb resistance in the northern Benin might partially be explained by the use of a high quantity of various insecticides by farmers against cotton pests,” they report.
The Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) (http://www.mimalaria.org/eng/), launched in Dakar, Senegal in 1997, is an international alliance of organizations and individuals seeking to maximize the impact of scientific research against malaria in Africa to ensure that research findings yield practical health benefits. The MIM conference in Durban follows successful conferences held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in November 2005, and in Nairobi in October 2009. The MIM Secretariat is currently hosted by the Biotechnology Centre of the University of Yaoundé I/Amsterdam Medical Centre.
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