By Faranak Bakhtiari

Iran taking final step toward malaria elimination

April 26, 2020 - 16:53

TEHRAN – Iran has not had any indigenous cases of malaria for two years in a row, and if the country’s passes this year with no indigenous cases, the World Health Organization will grant it a certificate of malaria eradication, Ahmad Raeisi, head of the Malaria control department of the Ministry of Health, has stated.

On World Malaria Day (April 25), WHO joined the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership to End Malaria in promoting “Zero malaria starts with me”, a grassroots campaign that aims to keep malaria high on the political agenda, mobilize additional resources, and empower communities to take ownership of malaria prevention and care.

Between 2000 and 2014, the number of malaria-related deaths fell by 40 percent worldwide, from an estimated 743,000 to 446,000.

Pointing out that the prevalence of coronavirus has made it difficult for healthcare professionals around the world to continue so, Raeisi said: “Of course, our prediction based on our observations is that this year we will be able to pass without indigenous cases of malaria and in 2021 we will be able to celebrate the elimination of malaria in the country.”

There are 20 countries in the world that are moving towards the elimination of malaria; in the Eastern Mediterranean region, Iran is at the forefront of this issue, followed by Saudi Arabia, which he highlighted.

He went on to say that a vaccine is being tested in three African countries, which is by no means a vaccine for countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, where major cases are reported malaria parasite. 

The vaccine is only used to treat malaria falciparum and is designed to reduce mortality; fortunately, the vaccine has been well-received in African countries, but it only reduces the incidence of malaria falciparum deaths, while more than 90 percent of the cases in these countries are Malaria parasite, which naturally cannot be treated by the vaccine, he explained.

Referring to the use of anti-malaria drugs for COVID-19 treatment, he said that in its first encounter with coronavirus, China has found that chloroquine, one of the world's oldest anti-malarial drugs, appears to have an effect on the entry of coronavirus into lung cells. Of course, in addition to chloroquine, we also use some other antiviral drugs, which are mainly used to treat AIDS. 

While there is no link between AIDS and corona or malaria and corona, these drugs can help improve the health of a patient with COVID-19, he added.

He went on to note that in recent years, malaria symptoms were mainly fever or ague, but there are so many anti-fever and painkillers around the world that the malaria parasite does not show the general way it causes the disease. 

Since the past two years, there have not been any indigenous cases of malaria in our country. However, border traffic has also led to non-native cases, especially in the provinces of Sistan-Baluchestan, Hormozgan, and the southern part of Kerman province.

Unfortunately, there have been cases of malaria-causing deaths in the last two years, but they are very rare. Patients in Iran were not infected and brought the disease from outside the borders. More than 95 percent of malaria cases are from Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the other 5 percent are Iranians who have contracted the disease while traveling to those countries, he explained.

Fortunately, the main route of transmission of the disease is still through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. There are about six species of Anopheles mosquitoes in Iran, of which there are no more than two or three species, which are actively involved in disease transmission in the south and southeast, and the rest are in the north of the Zagros, from which we do not have malaria transmission, he said.

He concluded that although the most common route of transmission of malaria is mosquito bites, in rare cases there is a possibility of transmission through the use of shared syringes among injecting drug users.

According to WHO 2017 malaria report, the incidence rate of malaria in Iran has decreased significantly from 12,000 people in 2000 to 57 in 2017.

FB/MG

Leave a Comment

2 + 14 =