China's aim to halt malaria gets a thumbs up from WHO as global effort grows

China's efforts to eradicate malaria by the end of this decade appear to be on track, state-run news agency Xinhua said, noting that its Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partnership with global health bodies is slated to be implemented by the end of 2015 as part of the country's Sustainable Development Goals.

The push to eliminate malaria comes as public health statistics show a 58% reduction in malaria mortality, equaling 6.2 million deaths averted since 2001 in China, Xinhua said.

In April, China won international plaudits on World Malaria Day for providing the world with what one expert called "the best" treatment, artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT).

Artemisinin was isolated from the Artemisia plant found in China and used for centuries in Chinese traditional medicine. As ACT, it is considered the fastest-acting of all current treatments for the disease that claimed 584,000 lives in 2013.

The broad campaign in China also compliments the World Health Organization's Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030, Xinhua said, as concerns grow about the spread of new strains.

"This is the first time that something like this has happened, as we want to show that the malaria community is working closely together to take on the challenges of the unfinished agenda," WHO Global Malaria Program Director Pedro Alonso was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

World leaders are to discuss both WHO's and RBM's strategies during the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, starting on July 13, Xinhua said. China is joined by Cambodia and Vietnam in the goal to eliminate malaria by 2020, the newspaper said, noting other countries of the Greater Mekong region are expected to eradicate the disease by 2025.

Still, WHO estimates malaria infections will reach 214 million cases this year, resulting in 472,000 deaths.

"Sixty million malaria cases still go undiagnosed and untreated, and 50% of populations at risk in Africa do not have access to life-saving bed-nets," Alonso was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

On the vaccine front, GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) malaria candidate is the furthest along with approval pending before the European Medicines Agency, though concerns remain about long-term efficacy.

In a Phase III trial of the GSK vaccine involving 15,000 children in Africa, early results showed that those who received three doses of the vaccine were half as likely to contract malaria infection the following year.

But in April, results reported by The Lancet showed a significant decline in the level of protection after four years.

- here's the story from Xinhua