Tuesday, September 29, 2009

African Leaders Malaria Alliance

"Malaria is one of the biggest killers of African children." Recently, "African leaders have begun an ambitious program to eliminate nearly all malaria deaths in Africa over the next six years." Initiated by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance was established "to streamline the procurement and distribution of control and treatment methods while keeping the disease high on the international development agenda" (Scott). "The international community has already donated more than $3 billion to the project, the BBC reports, adding, "The money will pay for the distribution of 240 million insecticide-treated bed nets throughout sub-Saharan Africa by the end of next year" (Nyaria).

"Africa is the continent most affected by malaria, accounting for 86 percent of all cases and 91 percent of all malaria deaths worldwide" (Henry). The statistics are sobering. "Nearly twenty percent of African women who die in childbirth" suffer "from malaria. It accounts for one-quarter of all deaths of children under five" (Scott). Every year, nearly a million people die.

The goal of the alliance "is to provide universal access to malaria control methods to all at-risk Africans by the end of next year in hopes of eliminating all preventable malaria deaths by 2015" (Scott). Ray Chambers, the Secretary General's Special Envoy for Malaria, says, "This is a massive undertaking unlike anything that has ever been done before."

Associated Press. (via VOAnews.com) [Photo]

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. "African Leaders Malaria Alliance Launched At U.N. General Assembly." Medical News Today. 29 Sept 2009.

Nyaria, Sandra. "African Leaders in Alliance to End Malaria Deaths on Continent By 2015." VOAnews.com. 23 Sept 2009.

Stearns, Scott. "African Leaders Fight Malaria." VOAnews.com. http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-09-22-voa52.cfm?rss=topstories. 29 Sept 2009.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Infectious Bite needs your help

I'm pleased to tell you that recently Infectious Bite has received many emails from individuals who wish to help spread awareness about malaria. To those individuals: I sincerely thank you.
Infectious Bite is an awareness and education organization. You can show your support and deliver pertinent information about malaria to the public by adding one of these notes to your profile page or website. [Single click to view image. Right click, & save.]

A single dose of malaria medication costs approximately 13 cents. Unfortunately, infected individuals can often not afford or find the necessary medication. $10 buys and delivers a bed net (through MalariaNoMore, NothingButNets, or the CDC Foundation), which can protect two children nightly, and prevent them from contracting malaria.There are 350-500 Million cases of malaria annually. Each year, there are about 1 Million deaths. Most of the dead are children and pregnant women.
Show your support and encourage action with this simple note.It is estimated that Africa's annual GDP would increase by $100 Billion if malaria were eradicated. Malaria is not just a health problem, it is also an economic drain.

Malaria kills 350-500 million people each year. Per day, there are 2700 malaria-related deaths. This is a global health concern of massive proportions.
Malaria is a disease that infects all areas of life. The economies of malaria-laden countries suffers from a reduced or disabled workforce and high mortality rate. It is estimated that Africa's GDP would be $100 Billion dollars greater (annually) if malaria were eradicated.

You can also spread awareness about the devastation of malaria by purchasing and wearing an Infectious Bite t-shirt. Profits support our educational events and go to malaria relief.

We appreciate all offers for help. With your help we can bite malaria back.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tigecycline treats malaria

"Increasing resistance of Plasmodium falciparum to existing drugs has resulted in the search for new antimalarial therapies" (American). "A new study suggests that tigecycline, the first member of a new class of antibiotics, shows significant antimalarial activity on its own and may also be effective against multi drug-resistant malaria when administered in combination with traditional antimalarial drugs" (ScienceDaily).

"Tigecycline is a novel glycylcycline antibiotic with a broad antibacterial spectrum" (Starzengruber). This drug was "specifically designed to overcome" drug-resistant disease (American). Research showed that it was "up to 6 times more active against P. falciparum than doxycycline," a medication that is commonly used to treat malaria (ScienceDaily). "Tigecycline shows no activity correlation with traditional antimalarials and has substantial antimalarial activity on its own" (Starzengruber). Researchers hope that because of "its clinical efficacy", Tigecycline may be used "in combination with faster-acting antimalarials in the...treatment of multidrug-resistant P. falciparum malaria in seriously ill patients" (American).

There are some side-effects to Tigecycline treatment, and the manufacturers warn that it "may cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman" (Wyeth). Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to malaria. Every year, approximately one million people die from malaria, and most of them are pregnant women and children. Nevertheless, the reduction in number of malaria cases in a region will improve the general health and economy of that are and help reduce the likelihood that pregnant women will contract malaria.

American Society for Microbiology. "New Antibiotic Shows Promise in Fighting Malaria." 17 Sept 2009.

ScienceDaily. "New Antibiotic Shows Promise In Fighting Malaria." 11 September 2009. 17 September 2009 .

Starzengruber, P. et al. "Antimalarial Activity of Tigecycline, a Novel Glycylcycline Antibiotic." 6 March 2009.

Wyeth.com. Tygacil. http://www.wyeth.com/hcp/tygacil. [Photo]

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Monkey malaria

"Researchers in Malaysia have identified...an emerging new form of malaria infection" that is a "potentially deadly" strain of the disease (ScienceDaily). "Malaria kills more than a million people each year. It is caused by malaria parasites, which are injected into the bloodstream by infected mosquitoes" (Daneshvar).

"Recently, researchers at the University Malaysia Sarawak...showed that P. knowlesi, a malaria parasite previously thought to mainly infect only monkeys - in particular long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques found in the rainforests of Southeast Asia - was widespread amongst humans in Malaysia." After several similar reports, P. knowlesi has been deemed "the fifth cause of malaria in humans" (ScienceDaily).

P. knowlesi malaria is particularly dangerous because it "can easily be confused with P. malariae", a more benign form of malaria (ScienceDaily). Under the microscope, the two strains appear nearly identical, but the strains are very different in severity and deadliness. "One of the most significant findings of the study is that Plasmodium knowlesi was found to have the ability to reproduce every 24 hours in the blood -- meaning infection was potentially deadly. This, according to the researchers, meant early diagnosis and treatment were crucial" (Kounteya).

A universally low platelet count is another curious characteristic of this strain of parasite. "In other human forms of malaria, this would only be expected in less than eight out of ten cases." But, "all of the P. knowlesi patients - including those with uncomplicated malaria - had a low blood platelet count...The researchers believe the low blood platelet count could be used as a potential feature for diagnosis of P. knowlesi infections." (ScienceDaily).

"Recently, there have been cases of European travellers to Malaysia and an American traveller to the Philippines being admitted into hospital with knowlesi malaria following their return home" (ScienceDaily). This deadly strain of malaria may potentially spread across the globe and infect millions if it is not adequately treated and controlled.

Daneshvar C, et al. Clinical and laboratory features of human Plasmodium knowlesi infections. Clin Infect Dis. 2009;49(6):852-60.

Kounteya Sinha. The Times of India. "Monkey malaria spreads to humans in South-east Asia". 11 September 2009.

ScienceDaily. In Humans. Retrieved September 13, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/09/090909103004.htm

Schweinsaffe im Tierpark Berlin (photo)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Herbal medicine

"An ancient Chinese folk medicine that's effective against malaria also might be a potent cancer-fighting candidate, scientists at the University of Washington say" (Hill). "A derivative of the sweet wormwood plant used since ancient times to fight malaria and shown to precisely target and kill cancer cells may someday aid in stopping breast cancer before it gets a toehold" (Harril). "Artemisia annua...has shown favorable...results" against "breast cancer and prostate cancer" (Artemisinin).

"The substance, artemisinin, appeared to prevent the onset of breast cancer in rats that had been given a cancer-causing agent." Artemisinin is "selectively toxic to cancer cells" (Harril). "The compound appears to be extremely" harmful "to cancer cells but had little impact on normal cells," according to the researchers (Hill).

"The properties that make artemisinin an effective antimalarial agent also appear responsible for its anti-cancer clout. When artemisinin comes into contact with iron, a chemical reaction ensues that spawns free radicals -- highly reactive chemicals that, when formed inside a cell, attack the cell membrane and other structures, killing the cell...The malaria parasite can't eliminate iron in the blood cells it eats, and stores it. Artemisinin makes that stored iron toxic to the parasite...The same appears to be true for cancer. Because they multiply so rapidly, most cancer cells have a high rate of iron uptake. Their surfaces have large numbers of receptors, which transport iron into the cells. That appears to allow the artemisinin to selectively target and kill the cancer cells, based on their higher iron content" (Harril). "In addition," artemisinin has already "been shown to be safe" in humans, as is evident in malaria patients who have taken the drug (Hill). Artemisnin may provide an alternative for harsh chemotherapy in some cancer cases.

“Artemisinin Herbal Extract Cures Malaria, Breast Cancer and Leukemia”. Associated Content. 29 March 2009.

Harril, Rob. “Malaria drug may help prevent breast cancer, study shows”. University Week. Jan. 12, 2006

Hill, Richard. The Oregonian, 28 Nov 2001 p C12.

Koresby Online. Artemisinin Annua. (Photo)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Malaria and antibiotics

Malaria is a parasite that is transmitted by mosquitoes and infects a million people a year. Since this disease is not caused by a bacterium, how is it that antibiotics affect malaria and improve the health of sickened individuals?

From 1920 to 1950, antibiotics were a widely used treatment for malaria, although medical practitioners were not entirely sure why this treatment was so effective (Butcher). In the early 1980s, it was "discovered that antibiotics ... are active as antimalarial agents" (Oronsky). More recently, azithromycin [also called Zithromax] has been used to treat malaria in Ethiopia after it was shown "to have efficacy in the prevention and treatment of malaria due to both Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax," (Travis).

After research, scientists have hypothesized that antibiotics treat malaria because they attack the plasmodia (a protozoa) within the parasites; therefore the antibiotics diminish the malaria" (Flam). Furthermore, antibiotics alleviate the immune system of other infections that may coexist with malaria.

"The treatment may also have unintended consequences...including the inducement of antibiotic resistance" (Travis). However, the situation is further complicated by the development of drug-resistant bacteria in malaria-infested areas that have had no exposure to antibiotics.

As mysterious as the seemingly unfounded effectiveness of antibiotics on malaria in the 20th century, the unexplained drug-resistant bacteria in "remote rainforest communities in Guyana" confounded scientists (Juncosa). New studies revealed "that overuse of a drug used to prevent and treat malaria may be contributing to growing antibiotic resistance...Drug-resistant bacteria are known to arise from the overuse of antibiotics, which is why researchers were surprised to discover that they can develop in areas that do not have access to" that particular antibiotic [ciprofloxacin]. Michael Silverman, "an infectious disease specialist at Lakeridge Health Network in Ontario" says that antibiotic-resistant E. coli were more widespread in these remote Guyanese villages than in U.S. hospitals "where every second person is on antibiotics." Silverman's study showed that the patients infected with drug-resistant E.coli had been "given the drug chloroquine to prevent and treat malaria" (Juncosa).

According to Silverman, "It is very possible that the antimalarial drugs may be inducing a large amount of the antibiotic resistance that occurs in the tropics." Unfortunately, "plasmodia, the causative organisms of malaria, have developed resistance to antibiotics" as well and "at the same time, the mosquitoes that carry plasmodia have become resistant to the insecticides that were once used to control them. Consequently, although malaria had been almost entirely eliminated, it is now again rampant in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and parts of Latin America" (MSN).

The increasing number of drug-resistant strains of malaria parasite, plasmodia, and other bacteria is another reason why an effective malaria vaccine is so important. We cannot continue treating malaria in the ways that we have in the past, for very soon, these old methods will be rendered ineffective.

Butcher, Geoff. “Million Murdering Death.” History Today April 1998: 24-28.

Flam, Fray. “Scientists Find Weak Spot in Defense of Tenacious Malaria Parasite.” Tribune News Service November 1997: 26-28.

Juncosa, Barbara. "Antibiotic Resistance: Blame it on Lifesaving Malaria Drug?" Scientific American 21 July 2008.

MSN Encarta."Antibiotics"

Oronsky, Arnold L. Treatment of malaria with antibiotics. "United States Patent 4496549" 29 Jan 1985.

Science News. "Distribution Of Antibiotic For Eye Disease Linked To Low Death Risk Among Ethiopian Children." 1 Sept 2009.

Travis C. Porco; Teshome Gebre; Berhan Ayele; Jenafir House; Jeremy Keenan; Zhaoxia Zhou; Kevin Cyrus Hong; Nicole Stoller; Kathryn J. Ray; Paul Emerson; Bruce D. Gaynor; Thomas M. Lietman. Effect of Mass Distribution of Azithromycin for Trachoma Control on Overall Mortality in Ethiopian Children: A Randomized Trial. JAMA, 2009; 302 (9): 962-968