Malaria is one of the most common infectious diseases and a great public health problem worldwide, particularly in Africa and south Asia. About three billion people are at risk of infection in 109 countries. Each year, there are an estimated 250 million cases of malaria leading to approximately one million deaths, mostly in children under five years of age. The organism that causes the most dangerous form of malaria is a microscopic parasite called Plasmodium falciparum.
This parasite is transmitted by mosquito species belonging to the Anopheles genus and only by females of those species.
There is growing international agreement on how best to use prevention and treatment methods that are available. The most effective prevention measures include the use of mosquito bed nets treated with long-lasting insecticides to avoid the mosquito bites and to kill the mosquitoes and spraying the inside walls of houses with similar insecticides to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The most effective treatment for malaria consists in using a combination of several anti-malarial drugs, one of which is a derivative of artemisinin. Preventive treatment of pregnant women with anti-malarial drugs can also reduce the harmful effects of malaria both on the mother and on the unborn child.