November 2016

Malaria on the Decline; Dengue on the Rise in Malaysia

Malaysia has come a long way in its battle with malaria over the past 15 years, as evidenced by the dramatic reduction in human-to-human transmission cases. On the other hand, the country was inundated with an unprecedented number of dengue cases in 2015. We take a look at the evolution of these mosquito-borne diseases in Malaysia, as well as Bayer's role in improving the situation.

Here’s a closer look at how the country’s battle against these two vector-borne diseases has evolved over time:

2001: Of 12,780 malaria cases in 2001, Malaysia counted 8,808 as indigenous human malaria transmission. The remaining cases were from zoonotic transmission.

2015: Fourteen years later, malaria cases are reduced to 2,510 total with the number of human-to-human transmission cases lowered to 242. A noted increase in zoonotic transmission in recent years has been attributed to urbanization and deforestation. The same year, dengue cases topped 120,000 with 322 deaths.

2020: The year by which the Ministry of Health has pledged to achieve malaria-free status (human-to-human transmission). Making that pledge a reality will require a concerted effort from both the public and private sectors.

With the increasing number of dengue cases and deaths, there is an urgent need to halt these increasing numbers and take a step back to realign current approaches and vector management strategies.

Bayer's Involvement

Efforts are ongoing to fight these vector-borne diseases in Malaysia. Joining those efforts, Bayer participated in two recent events earlier this year: the Asia Dengue Conference and the national commemoration of World Malaria Day. Just in case you missed it, here's a quick recap of what happened:

Asia Dengue Conference:  One of the biggest conferences focusing on dengue in Asia brought together respected and knowledgeable experts from the fields of medical and entomology as well as more than 700 participants from around the globe. Bayer was invited to share innovative vector control solutions like the Mosquito Learning Lab. The free online platform was developed as an important tool to help reinforce the message that fighting diseases like dengue concerns everyone, not just the government. Public apathy is currently one of the biggest challenges faced by the Ministry of Health in its vector control efforts. The learning lab aims to change that through community education.

 WHO Coordinator Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe reflected on the recent focus on the availability of dengue vaccinations in the Western Pacific Region. “It does not mean vector control activities would become redundant.” He stressed that it is of utmost importance to understand which strains of the virus are endemic and the demographic that are most affected in the country to implement an integrated vector control management program. “In vector control efforts, nothing is a silver bullet.”

And in his keynote speech, the Minister of Health of Malaysia, Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam, emphasized the need for innovation in vector control solutions as well as an integrated approach in managing the outbreak of the disease. Furthermore, citing outdoor residual spray programs as one of the more recent innovations to have emerged from partnerships with the industry and the ministry’s research arm, the Institute for Medical Research (IMR). Currently, the IMR is conducting a trial in Borneo using K-Othrine Polyzone by way of an outdoor residual spray as a possible solution to control simian malaria. The IMR plans to test other resistance management solutions later this year.

World Malaria Day 2016: The coastal state of Terengganu on the Peninsula Island hosted a national commemorative celebration earlier this year. The theme? “Banteras Malaria Demi Kesejahteraan Sejagat” which translates to “Eliminate Malaria for the Good of the People.”  In this forum of top malaria researchers and state directors of public health, we introduced the Bayer 360º Vector Control approach.

With a strong partnership between the Ministry of Health and Bayer, achieving malaria-free status could soon become a reality in Malaysia.