DDT, Global Strategies, and a Malaria Control Crisis in South America

Donald R. Roberts*, Larry L. Laughlin, Paul Hsheih, Llewellyn J. Legters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Malaria is reemerging in endemic-disease countries of South America. We examined the rate of real growth in annual parasite indexes (API) by adjusting APIs for all years to the annual blood examination rate of 1965 for each country. The standardized APIs calculated for Brazil, Peru, Guyana, and for 18 other malariaendemic countries of the Americas presented a consistent pattern of low rates up through the late 1970s, followed by geometric growth in malaria incidence in subsequent years. True growth in malaria incidence corresponds temporally with changes in global strategies for malaria control. Underlying the concordance of these events is a causal link between decreased spraying of homes with DDT and increased malaria; two regression models defining this link showed statistically significant negative relationships between APIs and house-spray rates. Separate analyses of data from 1993 to 1995 showed that countries that have recently discontinued their spray programs are reporting large increases in malaria incidence. Ecuador, which has increased use of DDT since 1993, is the only country reporting a large reduction (61%) in malaria rates since 1993. DDT use for malaria control and application of the Global Malaria Control Strategy to the Americas should be subjects of urgent national and international debate. We discuss the recent actions to ban DDT, the health costs of such a ban, perspectives on DDT use in agriculture versus malaria control, and costs versus benefits of DDT and alternative insecticides.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-302
Number of pages8
JournalEmerging Infectious Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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