World Malaria Report 2016
Its an amazing time to be in Malaria research. The gains of the last 10-15 years are amazing (reducing deaths from over 1 million to some 400,000). The challenge ahead is maintaining these gains, and approaching the once laughable idea of eradication. Having listened to the launch on Tuesday I was struck by one key challenge. With changes in endemicity and intensity of transmission as we approach eradication, this will itself change the game, certainly making it a new battle and likely a harder one to win. The parasite will likely change (selection for drug resistance will be intense and parasites may shift ecological niche in the body - more dormancy??? its not often talked about with falciparum malaria), vector ecology will likely change and many of our assumptions may end up changing too about how the disease spreads and behaves in low transmission. I.e. we could be in for a gruelling finish. Look to Polio - the end game is proving unbearably slow, yet we are so close. At this time, do we change gear and focus on ideas that are in the general consciousness of our peers, i.e. the malaria zeitgeist. Or, do we focus on fundamental processes - blue skies that will unearth the game changing areas of focus in the future. We certainly need both.
With funding increasing, in the UK certainly and likely elsewhere, this is a rare opportunity when governments, funders and many researchers agree on a way forward. In the words of Jeremy Farrar from Wellcome, there's never been a better time for young researchers to enter malaria.