Friday, April 30, 2010

Banishing malaria

"On Hispaniola, home to the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, malaria is caused by a single mosquito-borne parasite, Plasmodium falciparum" (Joseph). Hispaniola remains as "the last island in the Caribbean where the disease occurs regularly." Researchers from Tulane University claim that "success in eliminating malaria from Hispaniola would demonstrate that it is possible to defeat malaria in other regions of the world where it remains a dire threat. There is also evidence in Haiti that the parasite is becoming resistant to chloroquine, an inexpensive treatment for the disease. Eliminating malaria now would save these impoverished nations from having to resort to more expensive drug therapies."

In order to banish malaria from Hispanola, the countries must adopt more intensive mosquito-control methods. Every suspected malaria case should be diagnosed properly and treated.

"Success will require the 'unwavering political will' of both governments on the island, and will 'set a precedent for health diplomacy'"(Tulane).


Joseph Keating, Donald J Krogstad, Thomas P Eisele. Malaria elimination on Hispaniola. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 2010; 10 (5): 291-293 DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(10)70075-X

Tulane University (2010, April 28). Researchers call for eliminating malaria in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 30, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/04/100428121457.htm

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New species of human malaria

Over two-hundred species of malaria exist, but few infect humans. "Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax are the most common. Plasmodium falciparum is the most deadly" (WHO). While investigating the fourth type of human malaria, Plasmodium ovale, scientists "confirmed that the parasite is actually two similar but distinct species which do not reproduce with each other" (London).

"Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and Mahidol University, Bangkok collaborated last year in order to share their research after noticing that the single parasite Plasmodium ovale, though visible through a microscope, was not detected by forensic DNA tests designed to identify the species."

According to lead researcher, Dr. Colin Sutherland, it "was a great surprise to find that, not only are these two species completely distinct from each other by every test we carried out, they actually occur in people living side by side" in the same towns. "We hope to continue our work so we can unravel the mysterious differences between these two newly recognized human pathogens," he says (Sutherland).

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (2010, April 19). New species of human malaria recognized. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from¬ /releases/2010/04/100419150951.htm

Sutherland et al. Two Nonrecombining Sympatric Forms of the Human Malaria Parasite Plasmodium ovale Occur Globally. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2010; 201 (10): 1544 DOI: 10.1086/652240

WHO. "Malaria fact sheet."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

World Malaria Day

25 April 2010 is World Malaria Day

A parasite poisons hundreds of millions of people. The ancient illness kills nearly a million humans each year. Yet, this infectious disease is treatable and preventable.

Fragile mosquitoes flit through the tropical breezes. Poised on delicate feet, the insect prepares to feed. With a thwack, a slap of a hand, the mosquito melts into a smear of blood. Malaria has been defeated, at least in that instant.

Transmitted by mosquitoes, the malaria parasite may be deadly to humans, but many vectors for control exist. Prevention measures like pesticide spraying, reservoir draining, and insect-repellent bed-net distribution prevent the breeding and biting of mosquitoes. Fewer mosquitoes mean fewer vehicles in which malaria may travel.

Doctors around the globe strive for a vaccine that will prevent malaria infection, but a perfected vaccine has yet to be developed. Still, medicine plays a pivotal part in preventing malaria deaths. Traditional medicines like Artemisinin, Quinine, and Chloroquine are still used to treat the disease, but drug-resistant malaria has evolved in many parts of the world. New combination therapies are implemented to fight the illness, but the situation resembles an arms race. Medics and malaria struggle to keep the upper-hand, and we see an escalation in the strength of weapons needed to fight the deadly disease.

"Malaria defeated the international community many years ago. We cannot allow this to happen again," said Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization. Many so-called developed countries have expelled malaria from their territories, yet the disease is still endemic in much of the world. Malaria is a global problem, and it affects the global community. The mosquitoes that transmit the disease do not heed political boundaries or economic status. If one country suffers from rampant malaria, then the world risks the global spread of disease.

Eradicating malaria is not a simple task, but it can be done. The parasite changes, mutates, and evolves to ensure its survival, but humans can outwit this evolution. Concentrated effort to prevent and treat malaria drastically reduces the number of ill and diminishes the number of deaths in a region. And, it isn't just trained medical professionals who can help fight malaria on a global scale. One of the biggest efforts to combat malaria comes from mosquito-net distribution.

Bed-nets prevent malaria-infested mosquitoes from biting people while they sleep. Insecticide treated nets are the most effective, but even a standard net is better than no protection. Donations to support the distribution of mosquito nets are collected on a global scale. Please visit Malaria No More or Nothing But Nets to contribute to a net-distribution program.

Other ways you can help:
* Donate
Malaria is an economic drain on the countries and communities where the disease is endemic. Donations are needed to provide medical treatment and to support preventative measures in places where malaria is most prevalent. Please only donate to reputable organizations. Infectious Bite suggests Malaria No More, the CDC Foundation, and Nothing But Nets.

* Help
Volunteer in anyway that you can. Medical personnel are always needed in endemic regions, but non-medical volunteers are also needed. Volunteers distribute mosquito nets, disrupt and destroy mosquito breeding grounds, and educate at-risk individuals about proper use of insecticides and other preventative measures.

* Start
Start an awareness project of your own. Compared to activism for many other causes, anti-malaria offensives are still developing to find novel ways to fight the disease. Media publications reveal the signs of "an evolving 'malaria activism' (akin to AIDS activism)" (Public). "Probably no other disease in human history has been associated with social and political activism to the extent that the HIV epidemic has" (AIDS Activism). "Such activism played a huge role in reducing the costs of anti-retroviral drugs in developing countries" (PLoS). Outspoken individuals are needed to raise awareness in their communities. Small actions are indispensable to the global effort of malaria awareness.

World Malaria Day "is a day for recognizing the global effort to provide effective control of malaria." Instituted by the World Health Assembly in May 2007, World Malaria Day seeks to engage everyone at moving toward the goal of eliminating the global problem of malaria (WHO).

"Approximately half of the world's population is at risk of malaria, particularly those living in lower-income countries. It infects more than 500 million people per year and kills [approximately] 1 million. The burden of malaria is heaviest in sub-Saharan Africa but the disease also afflicts Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and even parts of Europe" (WHO).

World Malaria Day is an opportunity:
*for countries in the affected regions to learn from each the experiences of others and support each global efforts;
*for new donors to join a global partnership against malaria;
*for research and academic institutions to flag their scientific advances to both experts and general public; and
*for international partners, companies and foundations to showcase their efforts and reflect on how to scale up what has worked

Join us, and join the world as we fight to bring an end to malaria illness and deaths. Together we can bite malaria back.

Links to visit:
World Malaria Day:
Roll Back Malaria:

AIDS Activism.

PLoS. "Time for a Third Wave of Malaria Activism."

Public Library of Science. "It's Time for a 'Third Wave' of Malaria Activism to Tackle Drug Shortages." ScienceDaily 23 November 2009. 24 November 2009 .

Roll Back Malaria. "Key Facts, Figures, & Strategies."

Yarney, G. "Roll Back Malaria."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Malaria in Angola

Located on the West African coast, Luanda is Angola's chief seaport and capital. For years, Angola has waged war against malaria by providing medical treatment, distributing medicine and mosquito nets, and reconstructing the capital city. Social housing built to replace slums has reduced the urban risk of contracting malaria. Better health facilities prevent the ill from dying, and mosquito nets reduce the likelihood of mosquito bites, which may transmit malaria.

"Angola's health systems were severely damaged during the civil war," [ending in 2002] after which "only about 30 percent of the population had access to government health facilities. Malaria accounts for an estimated 35 percent of mortality in children less than five years old, 25 percent of maternal mortality, and 60 percent of hospital admissions for children under age five" (USAID).

Luanda reports that "the number of malaria cases dropped from four million to three million in recent years". "Speaking on the celebrations of the malaria world day [on 25 April], Filomeno Fortes [Ministry of Health] stated that the number of deaths also decreased from 20,000 to 9,000 as a result of the anti-malaria campaigns, namely through sensitization actions, distribution of mosquito nets, the anti-larvae combat and the initiative of the US president."

"Angola is one of three first-round target countries benefiting from the U.S. President's Malaria Initiative (PMI), a five-year $1.2 billion initiative led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). . . PMI's long-term goal is to cut malaria deaths by 50 percent in 15 African countries by providing lifesaving services, supplies, and medicines to 85 percent of those most vulnerable to malaria -- children under five years of age and pregnant women" (USAID).

Fortes hopes to equip every health unit in the country with COARTEM, anti-malaria tablets, by the end of the year.

"Dr Fortes revealed that the government will launch on April 25 an anti-larvae program with the aim to boost the campaign against the disease" (AngolaPress)

AngolaPress. "Malaria cases dropped. . ." 18 April 2010.
USAID. Country Profile: Angola. May 2008.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stayin' Alive

Malaria No More (MNM) chooses Jason Castro, American Idol season seven finalist, as the "Stayin' Alive" Ambassador. "The Stayin’ Alive campaign is the new grassroots movement that MNM has started to get American students involved in fighting malaria through dances and similar events to raise awareness about the disease."
Castro became involved with Malaria No More during Idol Gives Back, American Idol's Charity program. He "learned about the thousands of children that die daily from this dreaded disease."

Castro is excited to join Malaria No More's efforts to educate students and encourage their involvement. He says, "I was personally surprised to learn that malaria continues to be an epidemic in parts of the world, so I’m thrilled to do whatever I can to raise awareness of the continuing fight against this disease."

"It is estimated to be up to a half a billion cases of malaria annually with about 1 million deaths, particularly among young children. People contract malaria through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito."

For more information on the "Stayin' Alive" campaign, visit Malaria No More

Source: 15 April 2010.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A brush with death

"U.S. Marine Corps veteran Frederick 'Fritz' Payne" witnessed a great deal of death while flying his fighter plane "over the Pacific during World War II". "Although his plane took a beating during combat missions -- returning to base with numerous bullet holes — Payne said he only had one really close brush with death."

"It was when I got malaria," he said.

At high altitudes, pilots must wear oxygen masks; without the constant flow of oxygen they risk death. "When you get malaria, you naturally get sick," he said.

"When I got sick I vomited in my oxygen mask, and it cut off my oxygen."

"The next thing I knew, I was going around in circles," he said.

As the plane spiraled out of control, Payne lost consciousness.

"When I came to, I was at about 8,000 feet and the plane was going down," he said. Still groggy from the black-out, Payne managed to pull his plane from its downward plummet. The fighter pilot survived, but he remembers malaria as a deadly enemy.


Goolsby, Denise. "Ace fought enemy, malaria over the Pacific." The Desert Sun. 14 April 2010.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

World Health Day

This year the WHO's (World Health Organization) World Health Day focuses on urban health, campaigning in 1000 cities and collecting personal stories from 1000 individuals involved in urban health. Infectious Bite encourages you to read more about World Health Day 2010 and urban health and to get involved in your city's campaign for Global Health.

In 1960, the focus of the World Health Day initiative was "Malaria eradication -- a world challenge". For Infectious Bite, World Health Day 2010 marks the fifty-year anniversary of the malaria eradication challenge posed by the World Health Organization.

This Was Then:
According to The Hindu's (India's National Newspaper) publication from 7 April 1960, in "over ninety countries anti-malarial operations are in progress. In many countries a remarkable decrease in the incidence of this enervating disease, which in past ages has caused the collapse of kingdoms, has been registered. But the World Health Organisation has recorded the fact that 'there are still fifty-six countries where no effort has yet been made to subdue in malaria monster'. In India much progress has been made and large areas freed of this menace. . . .(Mosquitoes, however, still continue to flourish: Madras, for instance, had an unusually large number of them last cool season and they still seem to be with us)."

This Is Now:

Global efforts toward malaria eradication are underway, but each year lives are still lost. Estimates report that 800,000-1 million deaths occur each year due to malaria. According to the 2009 World Malaria Report, "tremendous increase in funding for malaria control is resulting in the rapid scale up of today's control tools. This, in turn, is having a profound effect on health -- especially the health of children in sub-Saharan Africa. In a nutshell, development aid for health is working" (7). The report also calls for continued action. "We can save millions of lives over the coming years by scaling up the malaria control tools that we already have available. However, we know that the malaria parasite is a formidable opponent, and that if we are to ultimately eradicate malaria, we need new tools. The unprecedented recent spending on the research and development of these tools, including a vaccine against malaria, is a critical component of the long-term strategy against malaria" (7).

Showing Progress [Quoted from the 2009 World Malaria Report]
*International funding commitments for malaria control have increased from around US$0.3billion in 2003 to US$1.7 billion in 2009 due largely to the emergence of the Global Fund and greater commitments of the US President's Malaria Initiative, the World Bank and other agencies

*An increased percentage of African households (31%) are estimated to own at least one insecticide-treated net

*Use of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) has increased. . . but remains very low in most African countries . . . well-below the WHA target of 80%

* More than one-third of the 108 malarious countries (9 African countries and 29 outside of Africa) documented reductions in malaria cases of > 50% in 2008 compared to 2000

*Ten countries are implementing nationwide elimination programmes of which six entered the elimination phase in 2009

Donations to the Global Fund sponsor malaria relief efforts. Since its creation, the Global Fund estimates that 5 million lives have been saved from Malaria, TB, and AIDS. Read more about the Global Fund.

Malaria is an ancient disease. It will not disappear easily, but in recent years, the world is making progress toward complete malaria eradication. With your help, your donations, and your awareness initiatives malaria may be eradicated in your lifetime. On this World Health Day, bite malaria back.

2009 World Malaria Report.
The Hindu. "World Health Day (7 April 1960)".

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Drugmakers work together

Two drugmakers, Crucell NV and GlaxoSmithKline PLC, "will work together on a new malaria vaccine composed of two drugs", which they previously were developing separately.

According to Crucell, "malaria kills about 900,000 people a year, making it one of the deadliest diseases in the world."

The companies worked together "to research a Crucell vaccine in preclinical studies, and want to begin testing their combined vaccine on humans. They said the preclinical research shows the drugs may work better together than they do separately."

"The experimental vaccine combines a GlaxoSmithKline vaccine", called RTS,S/AS, with a developing vaccine by Crucell, which "involves placing a section of genetic material from a virus or parasite into larger 'vehicle' particle similar to the virus that causes the common cold. Crucell says that creates immunity to the disease, and works better against severe infectious diseases than older methods of vaccine creation".

Associated Press. "Crucell and Glaxo will combine malaria vaccines." Via Forbes.