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Wednesday, November 3, 1999 Published at 12:46 GMT


WHO drive to combat malaria

Malaria is spread by mosquitoes

The World Health Organization (WHO) has joined forces with the pharmaceutical industry to try to combat the rapid and uncontrolled spread of malaria.

The WHO hopes the joint funding and research project will result in the development on one new anti-malarial drug every five years.

Health experts believe radical solutions are needed to deal with malaria.

The disease kills more than a million people a year, many of them children under five.

The fear is numbers will rise even higher as resistance to existing anti-malarial drugs grows and global warming means more mosquitoes breed and spread the disease.

The WHO is teaming up with other public sector agencies such as the World Bank to raise funds for research and development for new anti-malarial drugs.

High costs

In return, the drugs companies will offer know-how and expertise.

Most pharmaceutical companies have withdrawn from malaria research on the grounds of cost.

The WHO sees the partnership as a way of encouraging them back into the market.

Developing anti-malarial drugs takes years and involves hundreds of millions of dollars of investment.

But with most malaria infected countries extremely poor, commercial returns are considered too low.

This new initiative is, however, not without risk.

The WHO needs to raise up to $30m a year to meet its target of developing new drugs by 2010.

It must also rely on firm commitments from the drug companies that they are in for the long haul.

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