World Malaria Day 2022

25 April 2022 – Innovation, equity and resilience remain at the heart of the long-fought battle against malaria: new tools that can reliably detect each of the different parasite species and inform treatment decisions; equitable access to those tools so that every last case can be found; and resilient health systems that are able to ensure continuation of essential health services even in the face of a global pandemic.

World Malaria Day is an opportunity to reflect on progress, to focus and redouble efforts to rid the planet of this disease. Diagnostic testing is key to disease elimination, guiding treatment decisions that mean individuals can be cured, as well as providing crucial surveillance data for health policies that will allow every affected community to be reached. Yet latest data show there is still much to do: among those seeking treatment, fewer than 2 in 5 children under 5 years old with fever received a diagnosis with a finger or heel prick.

In 2019, FIND launched a malaria innovation platform, to accelerate advanced malaria diagnostic technologies that could address the technical and operational limitations of current rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs). The platform provides early access to field sites for targeted feasibility and validation testing, generating critical data on how tests perform in the settings where they are intended to be used.

In December we hosted a webinar with news and updates on the innovation platform from our partners in Sudan, Indonesia, Rwanda and Peru. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, significant progress has been made over the last 3 years and we have now supported seven diagnostic manufacturers to advance their technologies from early product development to registration, as well as a further two with clinical evaluation data that can be used for WHO prequalification submission.

The next area of focus is RDTs that work using non-HRP2 biomarkers, and we are excited to now be gearing up for this new phase of evaluations that will start later this year. These tests are urgently needed because the P. falciparum parasite, responsible for most malaria cases, continues to evolve and can sometimes now evade traditional RDTs that use the HPR2 protein – meaning that a test could show up as negative for malaria even if the person really has the infection. Non-HRP2 tests can also be important to detect infections of other malaria species such as P. vivax, which causes long-term morbidity and mortality.

I also take this opportunity to remind you about our ongoing webinar series on improving patient outcomes of febrile illnesses, including malaria, through better diagnosis. Four videos have already been published, with more to follow. Register here to receive updates as new webinars become available.

By working together to accelerate innovation, ensure equity and build resilience, ending the malaria epidemic is within reach.

Sabine Dittrich, Deputy Director, Malaria & Fever Programme