A new map illustrating global malaria risk in unprecedented detail suggests that wiping out the disease in many parts of the world is possible.
An international team of researchers published Tuesday what they say is the most comprehensive map ever showing how severe the risks of contracting malaria are in the world. Using mathematical modeling, spatial analyses and supercomputing technology, researchers were able to quantitatively map the prevalence of the disease around the world to a 25 square-kilometer resolution. The map shows that 2.4 billion people are in danger of contracting the deadliest form of malaria, but that 75 percent of them live in places where transmission rates are low and malaria can be easily controlled. “This map of malaria risk gives us hope that eliminating malaria in many countries is technically feasible,” said Dr. Simon Hay of the University of Oxford, who heads up the Malaria Atlas Project (MAP).
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However, it also indicates the challenges facing Africa remain high. The map shows that nearly everyone living in areas of high transmission lives in sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria claims more than one million lives every year. Children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to the infectious disease, which is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The disease is particularly prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. There are an estimated 300 million acute cases of malaria each year globally, according to the World Health Organization. The MAP team analyzed estimates of parasite prevalence as well as climate data to compile the map. The project focused on the Plasmodium falciparum species, which accounts for 90 percent of malaria deaths.
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The map will be updated yearly and will help scientists track the development of malaria control efforts and highlight areas where investment is most needed, researchers said. Individual country maps, as well as world and regional-level maps, can be viewed online and are also available for download on the MAP Web site. MAP is funded by the Wellcome Trust, a UK charity that backs biomedical research.