3 Takeaways from ASTMH 2023
By Christopher Lourenço, Director, Malaria & WASH, PSI
How can we adapt our malaria interventions in an ever-changing world, and do we see our malaria work as a critical entry point for strengthening health systems? That’s the big question 28 PSI representatives from our global network explored during the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s (ASTMH) annual conference. Our takeaways? We outline below what we learned and what we’ll apply in the global fight to eradicate malaria, for good.
- New products in the pipeline will help us to overcome the threat of antimalarial and insecticide resistance. Through advances like bed nets that use two active ingredients – more effective against insecticide-resistant mosquitos – and promising new methods for preventing mosquitos from entering homes, we are expanding our vector control toolkit. Researchers from Gondar University, Ethiopia, showed promise of a digital microscope that is more sensitive and faster for identifying Plasmodium falciparum parasites, the deadliest malaria-causing species and most prevalent on the African continent. This is welcome news given that these parasites can mutate without the protein-expressing genes necessary to be detected by commonly used rapid diagnostic tests. There were also some interesting updates from Medicines for Malaria Ventures (MMV) regarding the portfolio of antimalarial drug compounds under development, named “irresistibles,” that have not yielded any resistance through in vitro experiments.
- We adapt to work through conflict, political unrest, evolving pandemics, and changing climates. Demonstrated by the perseverance of our PMI Impact Malaria Niger Chief of Party Dr. Daniel Koko, he and the team were able to support our government partners to continue malaria outreach, training, and supportive supervision and seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaigns amidst political unrest in Niger. We learned that to mitigate the impact of climate change, researchers in Gujarat, India set up urban microclimate monitoring to observe shifts in malaria transmission over different monsoon periods. These are a few among the many examples of how the global health community can maintain progress toward ending malaria in this changing world.
- We’ve, together, made progress. And still, malaria is on the rise globally for the first time this century and a successful journey to zero malaria must leverage data-driven decision-making. Researchers from the University Iba Der Thiam, Senegal, partnered with community health workers, local leaders, and local health authorities to understand factors that are hindering elimination and to design tailored solutions to overcome them. The Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program analyzed their surveillance data to identify risk factors across high-transmission subpopulations like fishermen and night watchmen, to inform their intervention strategies. To strengthen health security, The Lao People’s Democratic Republic Ministry of Health outlined the process of establishing their public health emergency operation center or PHEOC and leveraging it to sustain malaria elimination efforts. Using these data-driven solutions, we can continue the work to achieve zero malaria. I’m optimistic.
At this pivotal moment in our journey to achieve zero malaria, ASTMH was a key opportunity for the global health community to come together, share progress, learnings, and challenges, and identify ways to collaborate. Malaria interventions can be a critical entry point for health system strengthening if we lean on our partnerships within public, private, and community networks and collaborate within the global health community. I walked away from the conference energized by the ingenuity and determination of our partners and fellow team members. We are eager to continue to work closely with governments, key stakeholders, and strategic partners to deliver quality, primary healthcare and to eliminate malaria.
Interested in learning more about how we supported the governments of Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, and Vietnam to increase their engagement with private health providers in malaria elimination efforts? Check out our newly published GEMS Legacy Book detailing our journey. Join us for an interactive three-part learning series where we’ll share what worked, what didn’t work, and the insights we’ve gathered on how to transition oversight and integrate private sector data into national systems.