APMEN Vivax Working Group Annual Meeting 2022

12th - 14th December 2022
Bangkok, Thailand

The APMEN Vivax Working Group (VxWG) held its annual meeting in Bangkok, Thailand from 12-14th December 2022. The meeting brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, including national malaria programs, malaria researchers, technical partners, civil society organizations, and donor agencies, to discuss the latest advancements and persisting issues in the fight against P. vivax malaria in the Asia Pacific region. In total, nearly 100 participants from 26 countries attended the face-to-face meeting, and a further 30 participants joined online. 

The agenda and discussions were shaped by the priorities identified by National Malaria Programs (NMPs) from the Asia Pacific region during an extensive prioritization exercise over the last year since the previous APMEN VxWG annual meeting in 2021. The aims of the annual meeting were to:

  1. Present the latest evidence and status of ongoing studies on vivax radical cure tools that the NMPs prioritized.
  2. Further validate and understand some of the key priorities raised by these NMPs and identify ways to address them.
  3. Introduce the Options Assessment Toolkit (OAT) among all Asia Pacific NMPs to catalyze thinking and readiness for vivax radical cure policy change.

Dr. Karma Lhazeen, the Chair of APMEN VxWG, opened the meeting by reflecting on the progress made in malaria elimination and the challenge of vivax malaria in the region,

"For many countries in the Asia Pacific, malaria elimination is within reach for the first time ever. However, although we have turned a corner with antimalarial drug resistance and significantly driven down P. falciparum cases in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), we cannot be complacent. Elimination in the Asia Pacific is not possible if we do not address P. vivax. More than half of all global vivax infections are in the Asia Pacific region, as reports indicate. It has now emerged as the dominant species in the many parts of the Asia Pacific region."

There were seven sessions in the main meeting:

  • Diagnostics
  • Treatment and hope (vaccine)
  • Access to vivax radical cure
  • Evidence, policy & decision making
  • Adherence and maintaining health worker knowledge
  • Supply chain data
  • Pharmacovigilance

The presentations in each session were focused on updating the participants - for example; study results on higher-sensitivity rapid diagnostic tests and sero-surveillance for vivax, the latest on 8-aminoquinolines studies, and the recent WHO recommendations on 7-day regimen of primaquine. For a complete list of presentations, please see the meeting agenda in the side bar. 

In keeping true to the APMEN VxWG values of gender and regional representation, there was an almost equal split of male and female speakers, session chairs, and facilitators, with a significantly higher representation of participants and presenters from the Asia Pacific region. 

The second half of the meeting was used to introduce the recently developed Options Assessment Toolkit (OAT) among NMPs present at the meeting. The main objective of the OAT is to assist NMPs and national decision-makers in assessing different possible options for optimal radical cure of P. vivax malaria for their context by providing evidence-informed support. The details on development of OAT have been covered here. 

During the meeting, Dr. Caroline Lynch, the Co-Chair of the APMEN VxWG, commented on the prospect of new vivax radical cure test and treatment options, 

"Countries in the Asia Pacific have made incredible strides in reducing and nearly eliminating malaria. There have been inevitable setbacks during COVID. But national programs have stayed the course and worked innovatively and tirelessly to stay on track. For the first time in decades, there are new tools and treatment regimens to help them to eliminate the stubborn vivax parasite - we owe it to them to stick with them now and support them to finish the job and make history."

In this session, the NMPs were oriented with different tools of the OAT through group works to obtain their constructive feedback and suggestions. Finally, the meeting concluded with each NMP outlining the next steps on using the OAT and the overall meeting discussions for improving their national malaria efforts. 

P. vivax malaria is a significant public health concern in the Asia Pacific region, and it is crucial for stakeholders to come together and work towards finding practical solutions. This meeting served as an essential platform for the sharing of information and knowledge, as well as the fostering of collaborations to tackle this challenging disease. The APMEN Vivax working group has been at the forefront of efforts to address vivax malaria in the Asia Pacific region and we hope the outcomes of this meeting will positively impact reaching the malaria elimination goal by 2030 of many Asia Pacific countries. 

This post was originally posted on the APMEN website.