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"In the last 15 years the morbidity and mortality rates for malaria have decreased by 50%, but the mosquitos are more resistant"

Scientists of the Institute of Tropical Health of the Universidad de Navarra report the latest advances made in the treatment for this disease on “World Malaria Day”

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Carlos Chaccour and Silvia Galiano
FOTO: Manuel Castells y Cedida
25/04/16 12:34 Patricia Sainz

Combating malaria or paludism has become a fight against the transmitting mosquito’s ability to adapt. In honor of “World Malaria Day” which will be celebrated this Monday, April 25, researchers at the Institute of Tropical Health of the Universidad de Navarra (ISTUN) express their thoughts on the diverse challenges that exist in the study of this disease, emphasizing the ability of the transmitting parasite to resist the drugs and insecticides used to fight them.

”Our principal difficulty lies in identifying new antimalarial drugs with a mechanism of action that is effective against the strains of this multiresistant parasite”, explains Silvia Galiano, principal researcher of the Medicinal chemistry Research Group. ”In fact, in the last five years we have identified two antimalarial compounds with excellent efficacy and promising toxicological profiles which have been recently patented”. “We are also using proteomics in combination with molecular biology strategies and affinity chromatography so as to determine the mechanism of action of these compounds”.

Carlos Chaccour, a principal researcher of ISTUN within the Ivermectin Group, points out that “between 2000 and 2015, the morbidity and mortality rates for malaria were reduced by 50% and that a great part of this effect was due to the extended use of mosquito netting and insecticides; however, little by little, the mosquitos have become qualitatively and quantitatively resistant. Therefore, the use of ivermectin is considered a potential tool for addressing this problem and meeting the demands of the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria (2016-2030) of the World Health Organization (WHO) whose aim is to reduce morbidity and mortality by 90% and eradicate the disease in 35 countries”.

Malaria, consequences for health and the economy

According to the WHO, in 2015, paludism continued to be transmitted to close to 3,200 million individuals in 95 countries and territories; almost half of the world population ran the risk of getting the disease. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region; in fact, 88% of the cases of malaria and 90% of the resulting deaths took place here.

In addition to the devastating effects of this disease among the population, especially among infants, researchers emphasize the fact that being able to do away with this disease would lead to an improved economic situation. ”The new plan of action needs an investment of 100,000 millions of dollars; however, this would have repercussions on the world economy, generating 4 billion dollars. This means that the return on the capital invested in malaria would be 40:1, which makes it one of the best investments in world health”, adds Chaccour. ”In addition, productivity would increase, school absenteeism would decrease, and possibly, the health system could improve by having resources for treating other diseases”.