The numbers game

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Nature Outlook maps the challenges in tackling the malaria epidemic.

At a glance


  1. Figure 1:


  2. Figure 2:

    Roll Back Malaria Progress & Impact Series: Report 8 (WHO, 2011)

  3. Figure 3:

    Gates Foundation/WHO

Malaria is still one of the 'big three' diseases, along with HIV and tuberculosis, affecting the developing world. While it has been eliminated in many regions, it remains a scourge of poorer countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, where Plasmodium falciparum is the leading cause of malaria. Elsewhere in the world, malaria is caused by a mix of P. falciparum and P. vivax, as well as a few less common sub-species.

View the full-sized map to see a set of informational graphics on the malaria challenge.

Feachem, R. G. A. et al. Lancet 6736 (10), 61270–61276 (2010)/Roll Back Malaria Progress & Impact Series: Report 8 (WHO, 2011).

Vulnerable groups

Certain individuals are more susceptible to malaria (Fig. 1).

The monetary gap

The good news is that if current efforts to control malaria are strengthened, the costs of the epidemic (including prevention through bed nets and insecticides, treatment with antimalarials, diagnosis, and R&D) are set to fall over the next few decades. However funding has not matched these ambitions (Fig. 2).

Figure 2:

Roll Back Malaria Progress & Impact Series: Report 8 (WHO, 2011)

Lofty ambitions

In 2007, Bill Gates's rallying call for eradication took some malaria experts by surprise. New drugs and insecticide-treated bed nets were helping control the spread of the infection, yet the world was some way off beating the parasite for good. Opinion is divided, especially as many of the goals set by the WHO so far haven’t been achieved (Fig. 3).

Figure 3:

Gates Foundation/WHO

Additional data