Last week, experts from around the world gathered in Jerusalem to discuss how to eradicate malaria for good.
The conference, held Dec. 8-12 on the Hebrew University campus, drew thinkers from around the world to discuss how successful effort in the past can help stop the current epidemic, which causes the death of a child every 30 seconds and impacts 250 million people worldwide.
Malaria was eradicated in pre-state Palestine before the creation of the state of Israel, thanks in large part to a multi-tier and low-tech solution proposed by an American microbiologist.
“In comes Israel J. Kligler, who arrived from the United States in 1921 with a doctorate in microbiology,” public-health and medicine historian Maureen Malowany, who co-chaired the event, said.
Malowany added that by the time Kliger died in 1944, malaria was gone from Palestine, but unfortunately, Kliger’s multi-prong approach was never widely adopted in other countries and failed to have an impact on the African continent.
“The campaign lost steam and never reached sub-Saharan Africa,” Malowany said. “By 1969, everybody was withdrawing funding and some areas had bounce-back malaria. There was a huge rise in epidemics. Until 1992, no progress was made.”
Now, Malowany and Dutch expert Bart Knols think Kliger’s approach can help stop malaria in sub-Saharan Africa today. Knols, of the Dutch Malaria Foundation, has plans to merge Kliger’s technique with cutting edge technology to stop malaria in its tracks.
“Bart wants to design a program of malaria elimination on Pemba Island near Zanzibar by going back to the Kligler method and adding new advances, such as anti-larval agents and GPS,” Malowany said of Knols, who co-chaired the anti-malaria event. “Today we have much better insecticides and strategies to combat resistance.”
She added that if Kliger’s approach and modern insecticides are effective in Zanzibar, then they could be implemented in other regions of the world.
“If we can show that the tools and strategies can bring the incidence of malaria to zero on Pemba Island, this would be a success story that can be taken to the world,” Malowany stressed.