Conference on Anti-Malarial Drug Treatments in Kruger National Park
More than 60 experts from national malaria control programs, the World Health Organization, malaria drug development and academia were brought together by Resources for the Future in a first-of-a-kind gathering in South Africa this spring [31 March- 3 April]. RFF researchers, led by Senior Fellow Ramanan Laxminarayan, presented results of their epidemiologic modeling, demonstrating smarter ways to deploy malaria drugs than current practice. More lives can be saved and resistance to the drugs can be delayed with strategies that take the global picture into account.
The malaria drugs we have now and for at least the next 15 years all depend on one set of compounds- the artemisinins- for their continued effectiveness. Artemisinin derivatives are combined into pills with other effective drugs in "artemisinin-combination therapies" (ACTs) but resistance to each partner compound exists somewhere already. The RFF researchers have focused on the benefits of mixing ACTs within a population, in what they call "multiple first-line therapy." Other strategies may also work, but the basic message is clear: the artemisinins are a global resource and protecting their effectiveness, a shared responsibility.
Attendees spent four days considering technical and practical pros and cons of global malaria drug treatment strategies against the backdrop of South Africa's spectacular Kruger National Park. The meeting was punctuated by excursions into the bush to view the wildlife that survives there only because of the successful stewardship of a precious resource- an apt metaphor for the task ahead for malaria drugs.