Since the female Anopheles mosquitoes tend to feed on human blood at night, insecticide-treated bed nets are a common tool that helps prevent malaria infections. The bed net makes it harder for mosquitoes to bite people, and the specific insecticide that coats it can kill some of the mosquitoes. Insecticides are also sprayed indoors to help kill or deter the mosquitoes. These strategies are called “vector control,” since they focus on decreasing the ability of mosquitoes (the vector) to spread the infection to humans. Although these approaches can help decrease the spread of malaria, malaria infections are still very widespread. In addition, mosquitoes that are resistant to the insecticide can eventually arise, similar to the way in which malaria parasites that are resistant to the drugs eventually evolve.
After a person has become infected with malaria, "chemotherapeutic approaches" are employed (that is, a drug or a combination of different drugs is used to cure the malaria infection). There are many different drugs that can be used to cure malaria infections; however, the parasites that cause malaria eventually evolve “drug resistance” against the specific chemicals that are used to eliminate the parasites (see the FAQ below on “multi-drug-resistant mutant superbugs”). For example, in the past the drug chloroquine was very useful for curing malaria infections, but the Plasmodium parasites eventually evolved drug resistance against chloroquine. Later, the dual drug combination of sulfadoxine plus pyrimethamine was developed. For several years it was very useful for curing malaria infections, and it helped save millions of lives. But then the Plasmodium parasites evolved resistance to this dual drug combination, too. Since resistance to sulfadoxine plus pyrimethamine started becoming very prevalent, the World Health Organization now recommends that artemisinin-based combination therapies (“ACTs”) be used to treat malaria infections. Unfortunately, Plasmodium falciparum parasites that are able to resist treatment with artemisinin, and its derivatives, have recently started to appear at the Thai-Cambodian border. The drug resistance phenomenon is the reason why discovering and developing new drugs that can eliminate multi-drug-resistant malaria infections is a global health necessity, and it’s the reason why we created the GO Fight Against Malaria project.