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My introduction

October 31, 2010 - 06:09 -- Ron Marchand

My name is Ron Marchand (1951), Dutch, biologist by training and I started to work in malaria entomology in 1978 with studies on the mating behaviour and biochemical identification of sibling species of the An. gambiae Group in Tanzania. For a too short time after that I was involved in a prematurely ended research programme to develop genetic control methods for malaria vectors in the Netherlands.

Since 1990 I have worked mainly in Vietnam for a Dutch NGO, the Medical Committee Netherlands-Vietnam (MCNV). This has enabled me to contribute a small part to the success of malaria control in this country by introducing ITN, improved EDAT and community-based approaches. This work made me deeply aware of the many other requirements in the practical fight against Malaria and Dengue: the quality of the primary health care system, health education, community awareness raising and arguably even more: the organizational, socio-economic, behavioural/ psychological and even political aspects of human undertakings.

I subscribe to MCNV’s mission which is to help disadvantaged groups people to improve their own health and quality of life. While this certainly also requires an ‘evidence-based’ approach it led me even further away from ‘publication research’ and even single disease control programs. In the last six years I managed a “Community-managed Health & Livelihood Development” program among poor ethnic minorities. This includes subprojects on agriculture, rural water supply, micro-credit, market access improvement and much more.

This work has kept me outside the academic mainstream of malaria research, but I have always kept a part-time link by working with Vietnamese colleagues in the MCNV funded “Khanh Phu Malaria Research Unit”. In this originally holoendemic malaria area, the progressive decline of malaria through ITN, improved case detection and treatment was recorded in detail using the old-fashioned ‘blood, sweat and tears’ methods of malariology. The now remaining malaria transmission is about 2-3% of what it used to be and virtually all takes place in the forests by a single vector: An. dirus. Recently we found that this vector transmits P. knowlesi as frequently as P. falciparum and P. vivax in this area.

Originally I was skeptical about the renewed slogan ‘malaria elimination’ but have realized that it does have value to inspire and challenge. The objective of ‘malaria control’ - especially when successful - tends to make us complacent. Vietnam may not be in the list of countries where elimination would be feasible soon but malaria has much been pushed back to ‘island-like’ areas.

In our situation, the presence of zoonotic P.knowlesi malaria reinforces the need for vector control in malaria elimination. Although An. dirus has proven a formidable adversary it may still have its ‘Achilles heel’. For instance, mark-release-recapture studies suggested that this species has a relatively low effective population size. Removal capture or sterile males might thus be effective – did we try out all possible traps, baits and other possible ways of control yet? By no means!

Now we need new ideas and access to all previous knowledge and this is where MalariaWorld comes in. I really congratulate Inga and Bart with this fantastic initiative. Only now it has become possible to stay efficiently up-to-date when working in the field, far from university libraries and without having the time, funds – or even the mood - to attend conferences and meetings for networking and contact with colleagues. If this already applies to me, how much more will it mean for all the scientists and malaria workers in resource poor malarious countries to access knowledge, developments and opinions.

With Malaria & Poverty as the leading theme in my CV it will be no surprise that I fully support the emphasis on value for practical implementation, also for publications in the new MalariaWorld Journal. I would award MalariaWorld as a whole the highest PPIF (Potential Practical Impact Factor).

Ron Marchand

PS: Can’t wait for DengueWorld!