Malaria causes more than 200 million cases of illness and 400,000 deaths each year across 90 countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) set a goal for 35 countries to eliminate malaria by 2030, with an intermediate milestone of 10 countries by 2020. In 2017, the WHO established the Elimination-2020 (E-2020) initiative to help countries achieve their malaria elimination goals and included 21 countries with the potential to eliminate malaria by 2020.
China was certified malaria-free by WHO on June 30, 2021, a remarkable achievement and the culmination of decades of dedicated effort by the national malaria programme and its partners.
We observed an increase in severe cases of falciparum malaria among French service members (who are travellers in endemic areas) in 2020, associated with an increase in the time between onset of symptoms and diagnosis/treatment.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting the maintenance of various disease control programmes, including malaria. In some malaria-endemic countries, funding and personnel reallocations were executed from malaria control programmes to support COVID-19 response efforts, resulting mainly in interruptions of disease control activities and reduced capabilities of health system.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on other health programmes in countries, including on malaria, and is currently under much discussion. As many countries are accelerating efforts to eliminate malaria or to prevent the re-establishment of malaria from recently eliminated countries, the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to cause major interruptions to ongoing anti-malaria operations and risk jeopardizing the gains that have been made so far.
The Peruvian Ministry of Health reports a near absence of malaria cases in the Amazon region during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the rapid increase in SARS-CoV-2 infections has overwhelmed the Peruvian health system, leading to national panic and closure of public medical facilities, casting doubt on how accurately malaria cases' numbers reflect reality.
Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) play a critical role in malaria diagnosis and control. The emergence of Plasmodium falciparum parasites that can evade detection by RDTs threatens control and elimination efforts. These parasites lack or have altered genes encoding histidine-rich proteins (HRPs) 2 and 3, the antigens recognized by HRP2-based RDTs.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In the light of its rapid global spreading, on 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic. Interestingly, the global spreading of the disease is not uniform, but has so far left some countries relatively less affected. The reason(s) for this anomalous behavior are not fully understood, but distinct hypotheses have been proposed.
Malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are currently being evaluated in a number of clinical trials as active treatments against SARS-CoV-2 virus. They are also postulated for pre and postexposure prophylaxis for the prevention of COVID-19. It has been recently shown that both molecules inhibit in-vitro the entry of the virus in the cell, and they can stop the cytokine storm derived from the infection alongside impeding T cell activation [1,2]. In particular, hydroxychloroquine is a drug with an excellent safety profile, even for pregnant women. Furthermore, hydroxychloroquine has been successfully used during decades for the management of rheumatologic diseases modulating inflammation and organ damage .
As the global malaria community observes World Malaria Day on April 25, 2020, we have plenty to celebrate. Yet this year, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak is greatly dampening the spirits. While the Asia-Pacific region has made substantial progress against malaria, with a 42% reduction in confirmed cases between 2010 and 2018, the emergence of COVID-19 could undermine elimination efforts.