Major advances have been made in reducing malaria cases and deaths in recent decades, but the scientific community has set itself a much more ambitious goal: to eradicate the disease completely. To do this, however, it is essential to move beyond mere prevention and control and towards new strategies capable of interrupting transmission of the disease. This and other issues were discussed at the conference "Challenges in Malaria Research: Progress Towards Elimination", hold in Basel, Switzerland from 10-12 October. The conference was organised by BioMed Central in conjunction with its journals Malaria Journal and Parasites & Vectors.
Vaccines will have a key role to play in the ambitious goal of wiping malaria off the planet. Pedro Alonso, Director of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, ISGlobal, gave a talk at the conference entitled "Malaria vaccines for eradication" in which he discussed the main characteristics that a vaccine designed for this purpose malaria should have. While existing vaccines, such as the first malaria vaccine candidate, RTS,S, target the stages of the parasite that cause symptoms and disease, a vaccine capable of eradicating malaria would have to target other stages to break the cycle of infection and interrupt transmission of the disease.
MESA, the Malaria Eradication Scientific Alliance, whose secretariat is hosted by ISGlobal, participated in the conference with its own exhibition space where researches and members of the industry were able to learn more about MESA's core functions; Ideas Incubator, Catalyzing Research, Monitoring Progress and Knowledge Management. Moreover, it collected suggestions on critical research questions that need to be addressed within the global effort to eradicate malaria. The proposals received will be taken on board by MESA's Steering Committee and used to design future actions.
During the conference, the WHO Global Malaria Programme and the Global Health Group at the University of California – with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – launched a new series of case-studies on malaria elimination. Copies of the first four case studies of this series – Cape Verde, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Turkmenistan – were made available to the participants of the conference at the MESA exhibition stand.