Malaria resurgence in India: a critical study

Sharma, V. P. ; Mehrotra, K. N. (1986) Malaria resurgence in India: a critical study Social Science & Medicine, 22 (8). pp. 835-845. ISSN 0277-9536

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In 1953, the Indian National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) was started. Encouraged by the results, and the fact that insecticide resistance in vector species may evolve and become an obstacle, in 1958 a control programme was converted to the National Malaria Eradication Programme (NMEP). By 1964, malaria was eradicated from 88% of the area and it was in the advanced stage of spraying in the remaining parts. At that time, focal outbreaks that occurred in 1965 and increased in later years, could not be contained due to the shortages of DDT. As a result, large areas in consolidation and maintenance phases were reverted to the attack phase. Besides, the infrastructure in general health services was not adequate and mature enough to take up surveillance and vigilance. This produced a large number of secondary cases due to the re-introduction and relapse of malaria. Added to this was the problem of urban malaria, the control of which was the responsibility of local bodies. Malaria cases increased in towns, and started diffusing to the rural areas, due to inadequate staff and the shortages of malarial larvicidal oil (MLO). Later, it turned out, that while it was technically feasible to eradicate malaria from 91% of the population, the strategy of indoor spraying of DDT to interrupt transmission did not succeed in 9.0% of the population, despite more than 12-14 years of regular spraying. During the years of resurgence, there was no research support to the programme, so that technical problems were not properly appreciated, understood and tackled. The reservoir of parasites that were present throughout the country started multiplying and spreading to newer areas due to the presence of vectors in high densities. Thus malaria resurged and re-established itself even in areas that were at one time freed from the disease. The analysis of the pattern of malaria resurgence revealed that malaria outbreaks preceded the true problem of insecticide resistance. It is noteworthy to mention that malaria resurgence occurred in towns where the control measures were non-insecticidal and in regions which were not under the influence of insecticide-resistant vectors. The study also revealed that resurgence occurred before the introduction of high-yielding varieties programme in the country, and had no relationship to either the cotton or rice growing or intensive agriculture.

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