World Malaria Day: talking about malaria everyday

April 25th 2024 marks World Malaria Day, a time when the disease is highlighted in the media and brought to the general public’s attention for a time. However, malaria is important and talked about year-round by those who have a vested interest in the disease (researchers, students, healthcare workers, community workers etc). In this blog article, I explore some of the trends behind the discussions relating to malaria over the last 12 months.

World Malaria Day (25th April) is a day where the global impact of malaria is highlighted, but the disease has a huge burden around the world and has been with us for thousands of years, so really it stands to reason that important discussions on malaria cannot be limited to just one day. But how is it discussed? What aspects of malaria are being discussed most? How can research about malaria garner more attention?

To explore the answers to these questions, I used the Altmetrics platform – a site that that tracks online mentions of articles. I searched for all articles (anything with a DOI) published from April 25th 2023 to April 20th 2024 with malaria in the title; I followed a similar process for the data from 2013/2014. The search returned 1805 articles for 2023/24 and 1622 articles for the 2013/2014 time period.


What recently published articles have been discussed the most over the course of the last 12 months? And how does this compare to 10 years ago?

The top 10 most talked about articles in the last year are:

Most talked about articles published in 2023/2024
A confinable female-lethal population suppression system in the malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae
Effectiveness of dual active ingredient insecticide-treated nets in preventing malaria: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Hearing of malaria mosquitoes is modulated by a beta-adrenergic-like octopamine receptor which serves as insecticide target
Dual effector population modification gene-drive strains of the African malaria mosquitoes, Anopheles gambiae and Anopheles coluzzii
Safety and efficacy of malaria vaccine candidate R21/Matrix-M in African children: a multicentre, double-blind, randomised, phase 3 trial
Delftia tsuruhatensis TC1 symbiont suppresses malaria transmission by anopheline mosquitoes
Second malaria vaccine to win global approval is cheaper and easier to make
Ancient genomes illuminate Eastern Arabian population history and adaptation against malaria
El Niño and other climatic drivers of epidemic malaria in Ethiopia: new tools for national health adaptation plans

Most ‘talked about’ articles in the top 10 are related to vector control, with a couple looking at vaccine usage. The papers on vector control use molecular methods compared, for instance, to ten years ago. The list below shows the most talked about papers that were published 10 years ago, which shows how far forward we have terms of vaccine development, (combatting) anti-malarial resistance, and improving vector control. It is also worth noting that climate change is still as much of an issue for malaria control as it was 10 years ago.

Most talked about articles published 2013/2014
Protection Against Malaria by Intravenous Immunization with a Nonreplicating Sporozoite Vaccine
Zapped malaria parasite raises vaccine hopes
Malaria Infected Mosquitoes Express Enhanced Attraction to Human Odor
Altitudinal Changes in Malaria Incidence in Highlands of Ethiopia and Colombia
Influence of Deforestation, Logging, and Fire on Malaria in the Brazilian Amazon
Impact of climate change on global malaria distribution
Malaria: A race against resistance
Bad air, amulets and mosquitoes: 2,000 years of changing perspectives on malaria
Targeting Plasmodium PI(4)K to eliminate malaria
A molecular marker of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria


What aspects of malaria research is being discussed most frequently now?

Using the titles of the 1805 articles published in the last year, I created a word cloud showing the themes amongst all articles (and not just the top 10). I removed the words malaria, plasmodium and mosquito to avoid skewing the cloud.

Word cloud highlighting the themes covered by the ‘talked about’ articles published 2023/24

Plasmodium falciparum is the most discussed malaria parasite, although Plasmodium vivax is mentioned significantly – this is true 10 years ago too (word cloud below). Whilst studies on treatment have been significant over the last 10 years, parasite elimination studies have been discussed much more frequently in the last year.

Word cloud showing the themes of the most talked about articles from 2013/14

Does publishing models affect the level of discussion around an article?

Unsurprisingly, the most talked about articles were published under one of the Open Access models (gold, green, bronze) – this seems logical because basically breaking down the barriers to access makes it easier to talk about an article. Ten years ago, just over 50% of talked about articles were published Open Access, but in the last year alone this number increased to 75%!

Graphs showing which publishing model the ‘talked about’ articles from 2013/14 and 2023/24 were published under

Where are these articles published?

Talked about articles were published across a wide variety of journals or sources – this is not surprising because malaria research can cross many fields and disciplines. However, the top ten sources of ‘talked about’ publications (in the last 12 months) are in the table below. Eight out of the ten are fully Open Access sources and the other two operate a hybrid model (enabling authors to choose open access publication for their articles).

Journal Number of ‘talked about’ articles
Malaria Journal 242
bioRxiv 85
medRxiv 76
Scientific Reports 50
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 43
Parasites & Vectors 36
Research Square 35
Lancet Infectious Diseases 28
PLOS Global Public Health 25

This has been only a brief but interesting exploration into the trends into malaria research discussions – quite honestly, I could easily spend months looking through the data. I hope this not only gives an idea into what is being discussed the most, but also shows that malaria research is more likely to be talked about if it is made more available. Even if an article is published in a closed access journal, the results can be highlighted using social media, blog sites (such as BugBitten) and most of these sites are freely available.

Most importantly, discussions around malaria can happen at any time of the year and you do not need to wait until 25th April.

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