Latin America has the best chances of any malaria-affected continent of wiping out the disease, while sub-Saharan Africa has the least hope, according to a study published on Friday in The Lancet.
Researchers led by Andrew Tatem of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida assembled a database of malaria incidence and the political, economic and technical capacities of countries for dealing with the disease.
The deadliest parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, would be eliminated in most parts of the world in 10 to 15 years if transmission could be reduced by 90 percent from 2007 rates, they determined.
Of the 99 countries that have endemic malaria, 32 are making progress towards wiping out the disease, the paper said.
Countries that have relatively advanced economies, are on the fringes of the malaria map or have small, fairly accessible populations at risk have the highest feasibility for eradicating the disease.
They include the Dominican Republic, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Iran, as well as Honduras, Djibouti and Botswana.
"In general, elimination from countries in the Americas is most feasible using current tools, and least feasible for most sub-Saharan countries," said the authors.
In South Asia, political instability and weak health systems gravely hamper Pakistan and Afghanistan in eradication efforts. In Southeast Asia, where the threat is mainly from the Plasmodium vivax parasite, the main concern is about resistance to artemisinin drugs.
According to the WHO's website, nearly one million people died from malaria in 2008, most of them African children.