The number of deaths caused by malaria has decreased by more than 20% worldwide over the last decade, thanks to improved diagnostic testing and the increased availability of treatments, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

According to the World Malaria Report 2010, there were 225 million cases of malaria and an estimated 781,000 deaths in 2009, a decrease from 233 million cases and 985,000 deaths in 2000.

Information from manufacturers indicates the number of Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) procured has increased every year since 2005 and by the end of 2009, 11 African countries were providing sufficient courses of ACTs to cover more than 100% of malaria cases seen in the public sector.

The report went on to say that one-third of the 108 countries, where malaria was endemic, were on course to eradicate the disease within ten years. Last year, 2010, Morocco and Turkmenistan were declared free from malaria.

However, oral artemisinin-based monotherapies, which the WHO says threatens the therapeutic life of ACTs, are still being distributed around the world.

"When treated with an artemisinin-based monotherapy, patients may discontinue treatment prematurely following the rapid disappearance of malaria symptoms. This results in incomplete treatment, and such patients still have persistent parasites in their blood," the organisation said in a statement.

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Research into new malaria vaccines is still ongoing. Scientists in France last month announced they are expanding a clinical trial of Burkina Faso after releasing promising results of a preliminary study. A larger study involving 800 children is now to take place in Mali.