After decades of neglect, the war against malaria has entered an unprecedented era; the disease is high on the policy agenda, international funding is beginning to translate into real increases in populations protected by key interventions, and a growing body of evidence points towards important reductions in morbidity and mortality.
As the international community seeks to build on this momentum there is an increasing requirement for robust monitoring and evaluation to answer questions such as: how is malaria distributed globally, which populations remain at the highest risk, where is transmission most intense? To address this need, the Malaria Atlas Project (MAP) has developed sophisticated geospatial models that use all available data on malaria to generate maps detailing levels of risk in each endemic country. In an article published this week in Malaria Journal, MAP presents a series of maps describing the global distribution and intensity of Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly of the malaria parasites, for the year 2010. The maps provide a robust and detailed estimation of risk for every country that can help support decision-making from the international to the local level.
Biological models were used to generate maps of different transmission metrics such as infection prevalence, which is the standard metric for disease control planning. In addition, more elaborate measures such as entomological inoculation rate and reproductive number (needed by the malaria modelling community to translate theoretical findings into real-world settings) were generated.
The article is accompanied by the launch of a new web portal at www.map.ox.ac.uk. Here, all maps presented in the study, along with a wide range of other resources, can be freely accessed and downloaded. Those wishing to analyse the outputs can download the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) surfaces, and soon a new data explorer will allow the underlying survey data to be accessed.
An map of Plasmodium falciparum malaria endemicity in 2010 (Gething et al., Malaria Journal 2011, 10:378)
Srimathy is the Executive Publisher for Parasites & Vectors, Malaria Journal and other microbiology/ infectious diseases journals at BioMed Central.
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