Malaria is caused in humans by five species of single-celled eukaryotic Plasmodium parasites (mainly Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax) that are transmitted by the bite of Anopheles spp. mosquitoes. Malaria remains one of the most serious infectious diseases; it threatens nearly half of the world's population and led to hundreds of thousands of deaths in 2015, predominantly among children in Africa. Malaria is managed through a combination of vector control approaches (such as insecticide spraying and the use of insecticide-treated bed nets) and drugs for both treatment and prevention. The widespread use of artemisinin-based combination therapies has contributed to substantial declines in the number of malaria-related deaths; however, the emergence of drug resistance threatens to reverse this progress. Advances in our understanding of the underlying molecular basis of pathogenesis have fuelled the development of new diagnostics, drugs and insecticides. Several new combination therapies are in clinical development that have efficacy against drug-resistant parasites and the potential to be used in single-dose regimens to improve compliance. This ambitious programme to eliminate malaria also includes new approaches that could yield malaria vaccines or novel vector control strategies. However, despite these achievements, a well-coordinated global effort on multiple fronts is needed if malaria elimination is to be achieved.
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