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CHAPTER INFO

Editors/Authors: Joel G. Breman, Anne Mills, Robert W. Snow, Jo–Ann Mulligan, Christian Lengeler, Kamini Mendis, Brian Sharp, Chantal Morel, Paola Marchesini, Nicholas J. White, Richard W. Steketee, and Ogobara K. Doumbo
Pages: 20

Abstract

CDC/PHIL/Corbis

Malaria threatens close to half of the world's population and causes between 1 and 3 million deaths each year. Not only has the disease made a resurgence in the tropics, it also poses an ongoing danger to other countries through importation. The battle against malaria, ranked the eighth highest contributor to the global disease burden, is being fought using a combination of traditional cost–effective methods and new, promising drugs.

While four species of the genus Plasmodium cause malarial infections in humans, virtually all deaths are caused by P. falciparum, carried by the female anopheline mosquito. Young children and others with anemia prove especially vulnerable as do individuals with compromised immune systems, protein–calorie undernutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies. Malaria may cause low birth weight, which can lead to a range of impairments, including cerebral palsy, mental retardation, blindness, and deafness.

Eliminating malaria from most endemic areas is an important global health priority. It also presents a significant challenge, in part because of the large numbers of people infected and inadequate infrastructure and resources in many countries. Efforts to halve the malaria burden by 2010 involve a number of strategies, including early diagnosis and treatment; proper use of drugs, including new therapies called artemisinins; intermittent preventive therapy during pregnancy and infancy; use of insecticide–treated nets ; and vector control. In terms of economic growth alone, malaria control offers great benefits, indicating that increased support for malaria research and for developing institutional capacity can help bring advances to populations in need.