Malaria is a disease caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called malaria vectors. There are five parasite species that cause malaria in humans, and two of these species (P. falciparum and P. vivax) pose the greatest threat. Malaria is a major disease burden in tropical low-income countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. Left untreated, they may develop severe complications and die.
Over 200 of our Swiss TPH staff and students are particularly passionate about malaria in a broad range of fields. We conduct basic research on the biology of Plasmodium spp., including gene regulation and parasite-host interactions. We identify and test new diagnostics, drugs, immunotherapies and vaccines for malaria in collaboration with product development partnerships and the private sector. We study the malaria vector Anopheles spp. to develop new effective vector control tools and strategies. And then, we validate these interventions in large-scale implementation studies with partners in endemic countries.
We apply innovative approaches in computational sciences, statistics, and mathematical modelling to increase our understanding of the biology and transmission of malaria and the impact of interventions. Finally, we use the generated evidence and experience to support decision-makers in malaria endemic countries and globally in developing of novel interventions and implementing effective malaria control and elimination strategies. We provide this support as the designated WHO Collaborating Centre for Modelling, Monitoring and Training for Malaria Control and Elimination.
Malaria is a Major Disease Burden
- Malaria is a disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
- In 2017, an estimated 219 million cases occurred worldwide and there where about 435 000 deaths from malaria globally.
- Sub-Saharan Africa carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2017, the region was home to 92% of malaria cases and 93% of malaria deaths.
- The population at risk are the young children, pregnant women and non-immune travelers from malaria-free areas who are particularly vulnerable to the disease when they become infected.
Achievements in Malaria Control
- Between 2010 and 2017, malaria incidence (the rate of new cases) among populations at risk fell by 18% globally.
- In that same period, malaria death rates among populations at risk fell by 28% globally among all age groups and by 40% among children under 5.
- Malaria is preventable and curable, and increased efforts are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places.
- Despite these achievements, progress has stalled in many countries in recent years and efforts are undertaken to intensify the response in the highest burden countries.
- The World Health Organization Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016 – 2030, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2015 sets the target of reducing global malaria incidence and mortality rates by at least 90% by 2030.
- The Action and Investment to defeat Malaria 2016 – 2030, developed by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, calculates the global return on investment to achieve the 2030 malaria goals and guides action at all levels to increase policy coherence, overcome health system bottlenecks, reinforce partnerships and multi-sectoral efforts, foster malaria research, and improve accountability.
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Cover photo credits: David O'Dwyer for SMG