November 19, 2017

Research Roundup: An old-fashioned malaria strategy, a polio funding crisis, and a global pledge to end TB

Program Assistant
PATH/Gabe Bienczycki

In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

A resurrected malaria prevention strategy—seasonal malaria chemoprevention—saved an estimated 40,000 lives in 2015 and 2016, according to new research. The strategy involves giving children a dose of antimalarial drugs monthly during the rainy season—the season with the highest incidence of malaria—to prevent the disease. Researchers and public health professionals were initially skeptical of this technique when applied in real-world settings since it requires thousands of local aid workers to deliver malaria drugs to rural and hard-to-reach areas, but recent results have shown reductions in malaria prevalence similar to those seen in clinical trials in areas deploying the strategy. While historical and recent studies suggest this technique is effective, there are signs this method will only work for a limited time before existing drugs fail because of resistance, meaning alternative solutions must continue to be explored.

As the world gets closer to eradicating polio, a funding crisis looms for many countries. Funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is scheduled to be halved in 2019 and expire the following year, except in the most high-risk countries. A reduction in polio funding will leave countries with depleted resources, straining their capacity to vaccinate against other life-threatening diseases and conduct surveillance activities. Today, polio funding supports health workers that also deliver routine immunizations as well as 70 percent of all global funding for surveillance. Also, as polio transmission rates move toward zero, global strategies must be implemented to maintain eradication, including using the safer injectable polio vaccine for up to ten years following eradication, which will be more difficult to achieve if polio resources are strained.

At the close of the first Global Ministerial Conference on Ending Tuberculosis, 75 health ministers agreed to take committed action to end tuberculosis (TB)by 2030. Ministers met in Moscow, Russia over two days to discuss and strategize solutions for TB. They concluded with a pledge to take action on four fronts: (1) move to achieve universal health coverage, (2)mobilize domestic and international investments to close gaps in implementation and research, (3) advance research and development for new tools to tackle TB, and (4) build accountability by tracking and reviewing progress in ending TB. Ministers also vowed to take increased action to minimize the risk and spread of antimicrobial resistance.