Resistance to insecticides used to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes is threatening to reverse gains made in fighting the disease.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria deaths fell by 45 per cent between 2000 and 2012, thanks to greater use of long-lasting insecticide- treated bed nets (LLINs), more effective treatment, more homes being sprayed with insecticide (IRS) and better healthcare. However, continued use of the same pesticides has led mosquitoes to develop insecticide resistance.
According to WHO, LLINs and IRS are estimated to avert about 220,000 deaths in children under five in Africa every year. If pesticides lose their effectiveness, more than 55 per cent of the benefits would be lost.
“It’s been over 30 years since a new insecticide was launched on the market, so the world needs to look for alternatives,” says John Invest, Technical Consultant on Vector Management. One approach is rotating pesticides used in indoor spraying; another is using new bed nets containing a synergist that blocks the mosquito’s ability to produce enzymes that detoxify the insecticide.
Neither is easy and both are costly, but with a child dying from malaria every minute, Invest warns, “We can’t be complacent. We need to act fast before the number of deaths from malaria start to rise.”