How Sri Lanka Eradicated Malaria
Is global malaria eradication possible?
Sophie-Rose Ekitok. 13 January 2017.
In recent times, tropical medicine has come to the forefront of medical media attention. Many stories report severe symptoms, high fatality rates and highlight how an epidemic can cause world upset. Malaria has been a predominant disease for decades consequently causing the World Health Organisation (WHO) problems.
Malaria is blood disease caused by the transmission of the parasite Plasmodium from the Anopheles mosquito to humans. The disease is not spread by physical contact between humans therefore it cannot be sexually transmitted. The Anopheles mosquito is the only type which can transmit parasites to humans.
Plasmodium parasite is found in the faeces of chimpanzees and western gorillas. These wild-living apes are present in swamp forests, open woodlands and other areas of rich vegetation. Contrary to popular belief, mosquitos are mainly vegetarians and prefer to feed on nectar. When sucking in the fruity juice, Plasmodium also enters the mosquito hereby infecting the host.
Pregnant mosquitos draw blood from humans to provide nutrients for their eggs. As mosquitos feed on human blood, parasite-infested saliva is injected to the bloodstream. The parasite travels to the liver. Liver cells become infected and Plasmodium starts to multiply rapidly. At this stage symptoms are not presented though it can last for a few days. Plasmodium burst out of liver cells and enter back into the bloodstream. Plasmodium then attack red blood cells and hide inside the red blood cell hosts. Yet again, thousands of Plasmodium parasites are copied; once the red blood cell matures, parasites are released back into the bloodstream to continue vicious attack on the human body.
The WHO declared Sri Lanka as one of the “most malaria-affected” countries in the last century. Since this declaration Sri Lanka has worked towards erasing that title with a range of strategies.
Local governments financially support “high transmission zone” communities by providing mobile malaria clinics hence the parasite reservoir is reduced and there is a significant decrease in the possibility of further transmission to other areas.
Antimalarial drug resistance is carefully monitored as medication is a crucial part of Sri Lanka’s success. Alongside medication monitoring, all P.falciparum cases are hospitalised for a minimum of 3 days and insectides are also monitored. The Ministry of Health launched a national elimination programme in 2009 and have been endorsing national projects financially and socially. Every year 25th April is Malaria Day to raise awareness for the physiological killer.
Despite the good efforts of Sri Lanka, there have been times of great concern in its recent history. In 1934–1935 a drought triggered an epidemic: causing rivers and streams to form pools providing fertile breeding grounds for Anopheles larvae. The drought affected the population as crops failed and people suffered from malnutrition.
Is the end of malaria nigh? Bill Gates and Sir Richard Feachem Director of the Global Health Group seem to believe so. Maybe the key is financial backing resulting in an abundance of medical resources and facilities. Evidence shows that Sri Lanka’s boost in funding has improved the country’s strategies corresponding to its new official “malaria-free” status-declared in September 2016. Careful monitoring may be the missing piece of the puzzle but only time will tell.