Malaria conference looks to Israel's past for modern solutions

December 9th, 2013
Malaria was eradicated in Israel decades ago, but worldwide the disease continues to kill. In 2010, mosquito-borne parasite infected over 250 million people worldwide and killed an estimated 660,000, mostly African children.

Current anti-malaria efforts are to a great extent focused on advanced science and vaccine development. But malaria experts and field workers gathering next week in Jerusalem believe a parallel approach—based on methods that worked in Israel and elsewhere many years ago—may hold the key to eliminating malaria in parts of Africa today. An international conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will propose a kind of "back to the future" approach, as participants propose efforts based on past experience combined with modern knowledge and technology.

The Dec. 8-12 conference, REVISITING MALARIA: MOVING FROM CONTROL TO SUSTAINABLE ELIMINATION is presented by the Sanford F. Kuvin Center For the Study of Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Braun School of Public Health of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School. (See conference agenda at http://bit.ly/malaria_conf.)

Participants in conference workshops aim to produce work plans for malaria elimination in specific geographic and ecological situations – particularly in Africa. Groups of field workers and scientists dealing with particular aspects of malaria control and elimination will be asked to produce detailed proposals, appropriate to the ecology, population, and medical and social services available, that will ultimately lead not only to malaria control, but to its ultimate elimination.

Paying Homage to a Forgotten Anti-Malaria Pioneer

Participants will also recognize the contributions of Dr. Israel J. Kligler, who arrived in Mandatory Palestine armed with a doctorate in microbiology in 1920 when malaria was called "the most important disease in Palestine." Kligler led the successful effort to eradicate malaria through techniques that included draining marshes and spraying larva-infested areas.

Kligler became one of the first Professors of the Hebrew University, where he directed the Department of Hygiene and Bacteriology. The precursor of today's World Health Organization called Kligler and his colleagues "benefactors not only to the Palestinian population but to the world as a whole."

Yet for many years Kligler and his accomplishments have been overlooked and forgotten, some claim because of personality conflicts that led other public health pioneers to be honored while Kligler was passed over.

While Kligler helped eradicate malaria in Israel, worldwide the disease continues to kill. According to conference organizers, Kligler's personal contribution is paralleled by the scientific lessons he left behind for those committed to eradicate malaria. In addition to paying tribute to him, conference participants will explore whether a Kligler-based approach can work in parts of Africa today.

Provided by Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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