Information and stories about malaria.

Andy Murray's PhilanthropyScottish tennis player Andy Murray is a 14-time titleholder of ATP Tour Masters 1000, a three-time Grand Slam champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist. He has been able to amass a good amount of money through tournament earnings and sponsorships, and with this, he has been able to help those who need it most. Andy Murray’s philanthropy is based mainly on his partnership with UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador, with which he has taken on many projects; the main ones being related to helping Syrian refugees and improving ways to fight diseases like malaria and cancer.

Andy’s Aces

One of Murray’s first acts of charity as a UNICEF ambassador was by simply playing tennis. In 2015, he vowed to donate £50 every time he hit an ace during his matches throughout the year. He kept his promise and donated over £80,000 with the help of sponsors and fans who matched his contribution, and with this money, UNICEF has been able to send help to over 16,000 children in Syria.

Malaria No More

Since 2009, Murray has been a spokesperson and contributor to Malaria No More alongside retired soccer player, David Beckham. This disease is one of the deadliest for children, killing one child every 30 seconds, according to the UNICEF website, but it is treatable with proper medication. “It costs less than a pack of tennis balls to treat and help save a life,” Murray said. With the birth of his daughter, he has been able to put himself in the shoes of parents less fortunate than himself, and this is why part of Andy Murray’s philanthropy is focused on making sure that malaria is eradicated completely.

Rally for Bally

Following the death of Elena Baltacha, a British tennis player who lost her fight against cancer, Murray created a series of exhibition-type matches where he was joined by other famous players, both active and retired, to raise awareness and money to fight cancer. Some of the well-known faces include Martina Navratilova, James Ward, Petra Kvitová, Agnieszka Radwańska and Ross Hutchins. Hutchins also happens to be one of Murray’s closest friends as well as a cancer survivor himself and was able to join him on the court for the first time since his recovery.

Hutchins was an inspiration for Murray; he claims that when he heard about Hutchins’ diagnosis, he wasn’t able to fully comprehend what his friend had to go through. “And just like that, for the first time, I found myself confronted with the reality of cancer. Here is that reality: Cancer doesn’t discriminate,” Murray wrote. The event now takes place every year and has managed to raise over £80,000 for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, an organization that promotes life-saving research to help cancer victims across the globe.

Andy Murray Live

Andy Murray Live was created as a series of fundraiser matches in Scotland, where Murray invites some of the best-known players in the world like Roger Federer to play against him. Murray is always thinking of his country, and that is why, aside from his contributions with UNICEF, he also donates half of the proceeds from his Andy Murray Live events to local charity groups like Sunny Sid3 Up, an organization in Glasgow that helps people in need, not only in Scotland where they support low-income communities, but also in Sri Lanka where they work to build shelters and promote children’s education.

The life of an athlete is by no means simple or easy, and there are a lot of sacrifices to be made as well as mastering the mind and body to perform on the court, even during stressful times. Andy Murray knows this better than most, as he himself has had to recover from injuries and surgeries which have currently placed him at the very bottom of the rankings in past years. Despite this, he will continue to lend a helping hand to those who need it most and fight for many causes, especially children’s health and education.

– Luciana Schreier
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty-Related DiseasesEvery day, billions of individuals around the world suffer from diseases. To make matters worse, many of these individuals are mired in poverty with limited access to health care services. Reducing the negative impact that these diseases have on individuals in poverty starts with identifying which diseases are affecting the most people. Listed below are three diseases that are closely linked with individuals in poverty.

Top 3 Poverty-Related Diseases

  1. Tuberculosis
    Tuberculosis, or TB, is a disease that stems from the presence of bacteria in someone’s lungs. It is common in many poorer, more urban areas because it can spread quickly when individuals are in close contact with each other. TB killed over 1.5 million people in 2018 and infected 10 million individuals in total. The disease takes advantage of individuals who have weakened immune systems, which can happen to individuals who are malnourished or who are suffering from other diseases simultaneously. When an individual in poverty is diagnosed with TB, their options are limited. Treating TB is costly and many people cannot afford treatment. However, not all hope is lost. Organizations like the TB Alliance aim to produce more affordable TB treatment for individuals in poverty. The TB Alliance has already helped many individuals and is working to expand its operations in the coming years.
  2. Malaria
    Malaria is a parasitic disease that is spread by the Anopheles mosquito. It accounts for roughly 435,000 deaths per year (affecting roughly 219 million people) and disproportionally affects individuals under the age of 5 (children under 5 accounted for over 60 percent of malaria deaths in 2017). One NGO that is leading the fight against Malaria is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They have partnered with the U.S. Government, the WHO and NGOs like the Global Fund to help protect individuals around the world from malaria-transmitting mosquitos. So far, their work has been beneficial, as the number of malaria cases has been reduced by half since 2000. However, there is still much work to be done, as malaria remains a deadly disease that negatively affects millions.
  3. HIV/AIDS
    HIV is a virus that is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. It affects nearly 37 million people worldwide every year, 62 percent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS (HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS) is common in countries where the population either does not have the knowledge or resources to practice safe sex. HIV can also spread in areas with poor sanitation, as individuals who use previously used needles can become infected with the virus. Many governments and NGOs around the world are doing good work to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDs. For example, in 2003, the U.S. Government launched The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Initiative. The goal of this initiative was to address the global HIV/AIDS issue by helping those who already have the condition as well as by spearheading prevention efforts. Since the program was implemented, the results have been positive- the program is widely credited with having saved millions of lives over the last 16 years.

Each of these diseases negatively affects millions of individuals around the globe on a daily basis. Yet there is reason for optimism — continued work done by NGO’s such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, TB Alliance and The Global Fund, as well as efforts from governments to improve the current situation, will lead to a better future, hopefully, one where individuals no longer suffer from there poverty-related diseases.

– Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in MadagascarThe citizens of Madagascar live with the constant threat of Malaria. An entire population of almost 26 million is at risk. There is no time of day or season of the year that is able to provide respite from this relentless threat. The country’s damp climate and excess of water provide the perfect habitat for mosquitoes and an ideal breeding ground for Malaria in Madagascar.

Malaria is a life-threatening disease transmitted through female mosquitoes that carry deadly parasites. Symptoms of the disease range from shaking, high fevers, body aches, and fatigue to convulsions, coma and death. Though Malaria is preventable, countries that face high levels of poverty, such as Madagascar, often do not have adequate resources to stop the illness.

So, What’s Being Done?

The following are three methods the government of Madagascar, with the help of various organizations and foreign aid, has implemented to treat Malaria in Madagascar.

ITNs
Insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) are one of the primary resources responsible for the prevention of Malaria. These nets drastically reduce the risk of exposure to Malaria for individuals and families sleeping under their protection. The insecticide used to treat these bed nets not only kill various insects, including mosquitoes, but it also repels them from households. If high coverage is achieved, then it has been found that the number of mosquitoes will even decrease from within the area, as well as have a reduced life-span.

One focus of USAID’s President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) in Madagascar is the mass production and distribution of ITNs. When the program began in 2009, only 57 percent of households had at least one ITN as protection against Malaria in Madagascar. This number has drastically increased, and as of 2016, 80 percent of households now have one or more ITNs. This increase is largely due to the number of ITNs distributed throughout the country by the PMI and a variety of other donors. As of 2017, almost 4 million ITNs were produced and distributed to the people of Madagascar.

IRS
Indoor residual spraying (IRS) involves treating the insides of dwellings with insecticide to prevent mosquitoes from entering buildings. Dwellings, surfaces, or walls treated with IRS kill mosquitoes upon contact. This is another preventative measure taken to cease the spreading of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. In 2016 alone, the PMI project, Africa Indoor Residual Spraying Project, treated and sprayed over 310,000 structures in 2016 alone. In turn, this provided further protection for almost 1.3 million people.

Protection for Women and Children

Children are the most at risk to contract Malaria. In fact, Malaria is one of the top causes of death for children in Madagascar. It is responsible for the passing of almost 200,000 infants each year.  The threat of Malaria in Madagascar begins long before birth for children. However, as pregnant women and unborn children are especially vulnerable. Pregnant women have decreased immunity to Malaria. This makes them and their children almost three times as likely to contract Malaria and other illnesses and infections.

Along with other methods, there are two key treatment and prevention strategies that Madagascar, with the help of various organizations and aid, has implemented specifically for pregnant women:

  1. The Administration of Intermittent Preventative Treatment in Pregnancy (IPTp)
    Starting in 2014, Madagascar modified its policy to match with the regulations of the World Health Organization (WHO). Their intention was to administer IPT pregnancies to expecting mothers early on in their second trimester of pregnancy. This was in conjunction with giving monthly doses until the date of delivery. Coverage of women who received initial IPT pregnancies has slowly increased since the implementation of the program. The amount rose from around 30 percent in 2011 to almost 40 percent in 2016.  On top of this, the 2018 malaria operational plan, funded by PMI, expects to administer IPTp to 106 out of 114 health districts, an increase from the previous 93 that were covered.
  2. Insecticide-treated nets (ITN) from Antenatal Clinics
    Using the aforementioned ITN is the primary source for prevention against Malaria, especially for children and expecting mothers. Furthermore, this preventative measure is critical for pregnant women who might be unable to travel monthly to an antenatal clinic. Close to two-thirds of women visit antenatal clinics at least once during their pregnancy. However, part of the WHOs strategy in Malaria prevention during pregnancy is giving away an ITN in their prevention and treatment package. Thanks to efforts such as these, as of 2018, 69 percent of pregnant women slept under the protection of an ITN.

Malaria is an increasingly critical problem plaguing Madagascar. Between 2016 and 2017, Madagascar had one of the highest increases of Malaria cases in all of Africa. In 2016 there was close to 472,000 reported cases of Malaria in Madagascar. This number increased to almost 800,000 in 2017. Despite a rising number of cases, however, the government of Madagascar is working earnestly to continue to develop programs and projects with the hope of eradicating Malaria forever.

– Melissa Quist
Photo: Flickr

RTS,S VaccineA new vaccine known as the RTS,S vaccine is currently being piloted in the African nations of Ghana, Malawi and Kenya.  The RTS,S vaccine has been in development for over 32 years. It is the first malaria vaccine that has been shown to provide young children with partial protection from malaria.

What is Malaria?

Every single year, the malaria virus kills one million people around the world. It is estimated that 300-600 million people suffer from malaria every year. Additionally, 90 percent of malaria cases occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of malaria’s victims are children under the age of five.

According to UNICEF, Malaria kills one child every thirty seconds, which is about 3,000 children every single day. Malaria hinders children’s social development and schooling. Furthermore, malaria is a major cause of poverty. For example, the cost of malaria control and treatment actually slows economic development in Africa by 1.3 percent.

RTS,S Malaria Vaccine Pilots

In clinical trials, the RTS,S vaccine was found to prevent about 4 out of 10 malaria cases. Additionally, it proved to prevent 3 in 10 cases of severe, life-threatening malaria. The malaria vaccine has also been shown to reduce severe malaria anemia by 60 percent. Severe malaria anemia is the most prevalent reason that children die from malaria.

The organizations of Unitaid, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria funded and supported these pilots.

Impact

Currently, an estimated 360,000 children are expected to receive the RTS,S vaccine through immunization programs in certain areas of Malawi, Ghana and Kenya. However, the main weakness of the immunization programs is in how they store and transport the vaccines. The effectiveness of a vaccine is dependent on whether it is in a properly-functioning cold chain. This refers to a system of transporting and storing vaccines at the proper temperatures from when they are manufactured to when they are used.

To ensure that vaccines properly fulfill their duty of vaccinating children from malaria, there needs to be an increased focus on the protection and storage of these vaccines in their proper cold chains. It is vital to invest in proper storage equipment and maintenance of that storage equipment. This equipment will retain the vaccine’s efficacy. It is also crucial to invest in roads and infrastructure so the vaccines can be properly transported to those in need.

Innovation

A technological innovation that has changed and improved the transportation of malaria vaccines is the use of drones. The Rwandan tech firm Zipline has already launched drones that are used to transport medication, vaccines, blood and other essential health care items.

Starting out in Rwanda, the firm has also expanded its lifesaving services into Ghana. The drones fly at 100 kilometers and are able to make deliveries in 30 minutes that otherwise could take five hours by car. The drones also are able to fly through any type of terrain. Therefore, they can easily reach remote villages without requiring any sort of local infrastructure at the scene. ZipLine is able to make up to 500 delivers a day. Thanks to its services, ZipLine has provided 13 million people instant access to urgent, life-saving treatments.

The RTS,S vaccine is an effective vaccine that is vital in protecting young children from malaria. By drastically reducing cases of severe malaria anemia, the RTS,S vaccine is saving lives. To continue saving lives and to further build the efficacy of the vaccine, it is crucial to focus on investing in the proper infrastructure for storage and transportation of the vaccine.

– Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Flickr

Anemia in GhanaIn Ghana, a country nestled in West Africa, 66 percent of children aged six months to five years have moderate to severe anemia. While other conditions may garner more publicity, anemia in Ghana is widespread and debilitating.

Anemia is a blood disorder with which there is an insufficient amount of red blood cells. Since red blood cells supply the entire body with oxygen, anemia affects multiple organ systems. Background anemia is the most common form of micronutrient deficiency; it affects “over a quarter of the global population.”

Causes of Anemia

Although anemia in Ghana has several causes, a low intake of easily absorbable iron is a known leader. Other nutritional deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B12 and zinc, also lower iron levels in the body.

In Ghana, the burden of anemia falls more heavily on women than men. Post-pubescent women are at increased risk for the condition due to monthly blood loss of menstruation. USAID studies find that 29 percent of women in Ghana are anemic.

Primary infections such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and those from parasites such as helminths can also lead to secondary anemia. According to UNICEF, 3.5 million people contract malaria every year in Ghana, making the country account for 4 percent of the global burden of malaria. Furthermore, UNAIDS reports that 330,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS in Ghana in 2018. The prevalence of these infections has increased the population’s exposure to anemia.

Consequences of Anemia

According to Mayo Clinic, those who are anemic may experience fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and chest pain. Left untreated, anemia can cause premature birth in pregnant women, which often leads to infant mortality. Young people who experience anemia can have “irrevocable cognitive and developmental delays and exhibit decreased worker productivity as adults.” Untreated severe anemia can additionally result in an irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and even death.

While the health ramifications due to chronic anemia are devastating, having a largely anemic population also has national economic consequences. For example, chronic fatigue from anemia in Ghana could mean an increase in lost workdays and diminished productivity at work. While these indirect costs can be difficult to quantify, they still deserve attention.

Preventing Anemia

To manage anemia in Ghana, the government is offering nutritional support through supplementation and education about iron-rich foods. However, it must also target the rise and persistence of these infections. A multi-focal approach has been and will continue to be necessary.

While the consumption of fruits and vegetables drastically lowers the risk of contracting anemia, generally, rural populations in Ghana have an increased risk of mild to severe anemia. One study suggests that women in urban areas consume more fruits and vegetables, which contributes to the lower incidence of anemia.

As mortality from malaria for children under five years of age has declined drastically from 14.4 percent in 2000 to 0.6 percent in 2012, so has the incidence of new HIV infections from its peak in the late 1990s. While the reduction in each of these primary infections is enough to celebrate, it also means a diminished risk of secondary anemia.

Ghana is hopeful. In 2014, the country achieved 93 percent iron-folic-acid (IFA) supplementation in pregnant women. This nearly ubiquitous IFA supplementation is a milestone because it will lead to less preterm labor and fewer neonatal disorders.

While this is by no means the end of Ghana’s struggle with anemia, the country has made strides toward combatting primary anemia from nutritional deficiencies and secondary anemia from widespread infections like HIV/AIDS and malaria. The future appears positive for anemia in Ghana.

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr

insecticide removes malaria-spreading mosquitoesScientists from the University of California, Riverside have discovered that a new type of insecticide removes malaria-spreading mosquitoes safely. Unlike common insecticides, this new technology is comprised of a neurotoxin (PMP1) that is toxic to the Anopheles but has no effect on humans or any other living organism. The development of this insecticide is a leap forward for the scientific community, as it has the potential to drastically reduce the number of individuals—roughly 220 million—who contract malaria each year.

Impact of Malaria

Malaria is one of the world’s deadliest diseases. Scientists estimate that malaria kills over 425,000 individuals per year, mainly those living in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Children and pregnant women are at the greatest risk for malaria transmission because pregnancy decreases immunity and children have not yet developed partial immunity. However, cases occur in individuals of all ages and gender. One of the most common and effective solutions for malaria prevention is to provide individuals with bed nets to prevent mosquito bites during sleep. The most foolproof method is the treatment of bed nets with an insecticide that kills mosquitoes on contact. Past insecticides have shown some negative side effects such as rashes, blisters and itching. The new proposed insecticide removes malaria-spreading mosquitoes with PMP1 and has no side effects, making it a safe way to protect individuals from the Anopheles mosquito.

Finding and Isolating the Bacteria

While the development of the PMP1 insecticide is a relatively new innovation, scientists have long understood the ability of the Paraclostridium Bifermentans bacteria to subdue the Anopheles mosquito. However, they have been unable to understand the protein that enables this protection in the past. Sarjeet Gill, professor of molecular, systems, and cell biology at the University of California, Riverside, led a research team to study this effect. The team placed the bacteria under radiation, creating several strains of Paraclostridium Bifermentans that could not produce PMP1. They compared these radiated nontoxic strains to the non-radiated toxic strains, which helped them identify PMP1, the protein in the toxic strains that is lethal to the Anopheles. They plan to use PMP1 to produce the insecticide.

The team has applied to patent their new discovery and are looking for partners to help them develop and manufacture the new insecticide for use in countries with high malaria risk. The insecticide has immense promise with no negative side effects, and because it is plant-based, not synthetic chemical-based. This means that it is highly unlikely that the Anopheles will develop a resistance to the insecticide.

Conclusion & Impact on the Global Poor

The new insecticide laced with PMP1 has the potential to drastically improve living conditions for those at risk of malaria transmission. Malaria affects millions of individuals living in poverty every year, as many of these individuals do not have access to proper insecticide-treated bed nets. However, the when new insecticide removes malaria-spreading mosquitoes, it should provide an easy and affordable way to ensure that individuals living in poverty will be protected without negative side effects and with a very minimal chance of the Anopheles mosquito developing resistance. The insecticide is an extremely promising innovation, one that has the potential to end the spread of malaria.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Wikimedia

Living Conditions in ParaguayParaguay, a country located in central South America, is bordered between Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil. Being a more-homogenous country, most of the population are of European and Guaranί ancestry. Guarani is a South American Indian group that lived mainly in Paraguay, which spoke a Tupian language. Many Paraguayans can understand Guarani rather than Spanish, which allowed the official language to become Guarani in 1992. With the growth of exportation, Paraguay has continued to thrive in others as well. Among the list of advancements in Paraguay are economic growth, health care, the country becoming Malaria free, and many technological advancements, that have allowed the country into today’s world.

Economic Growth and Living Conditions in Paraguay

When the economy grows, the lowering of extreme poverty goes hand-in-hand. For the past 15 years, extreme poverty has “fallen by 49 and 65 percent, respectively.” In 2018, however, Paraguay’s economic growth suffered in the second half of the year due to the “performance of the main trading partners, especially Argentina” and has continued to weaken since the recent drought, impacting agricultural products.

Due to inflation from the Argentina crisis, there was a decrease in public investment by 11.8 percent in 2018. However, public wages increased by 9.5 percent. International investors believed in macroeconomic management, boosting their Eurobond by 5.4 percent.

The poverty rate, however, is less than half of what it was in 2003.

Health Care and Living Conditions in Paraguay

Another aspect among advancements in Paraguay is in mortality. Life expectancy in Paraguay for males is 72 and 78 for females. The healthcare system is drastically understaffed with 11.1 doctors and 17.9 nurses and midwives to 10,000 people in the population. Paraguay’s government spends up to 37.7 percent toward health care. However, 87.7 percent of health care comes out of pocket. Health care coverage has begun to increase since 2008. It is still not where it needs to be. Less than 10 percent of total health spending comes from NGOs and other external resources.

While many who live in urban areas have improved access to clean water, those living in rural areas are not as fortunate. About 60 percent of inhabitants have access to clean water. This is better than the 25 percent who had access in 1990.

HIV and TB are below average. However, in neighboring countries like Argentina and Brazil, there is an outbreak of HIV. Poor urban countries tend to contribute to the under-reporting of TB. For these reasons, anyone who travels should take routine tests and checkups just be safe.

To ensure that there are more health care facilities to assist the country’s population, the national health care system has created public sectorss. These include:

  • Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare
  • Military, Police and Navy Health Services
  • Institute of Social Welfare (IPS)
  • Clinics Hospital, which is part of the National University of Asuncion
  • Maternal and Children’s Health Center
  • Paraguayan Red Cross

One major improvement regarding living conditions in Paraguay has to do with health care. Paraguay became the first country in the region to be free of Malaria since Cuba in 1973. With no detection of the disease in five years, Paraguay was declared malaria-free in 2018 since Sri Lanka in 2016. Although Paraguay is malaria-free, other countries are still facing the disease. However, it gives hope to other countries that they can become malaria-free as well.

Technological Advancements and Living Conditions in Paraguay

Paraguay’s Space Agency (AEP), founded in 2014, is currently training specialists. AEP hopes to gain the interest of young children with the idea of space and astronomy. By 2021, Paraguay hopes to launch the first satellite. Research centers have already started to develop CubeSat, which is a type of miniaturized satellite. It will be used for forest monitoring and cadastral mapping.

BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria) is a Spanish bank that has sponsored the League since 2008. BBVA prioritizes ensuring that Paraguay is digitally connected. About 68 percent of the population owns a smartphone. Additionally, 76 percent have access to the internet. BBVA wants “to bring the age of opportunity to everyone through the implementation of an ambitious transformation plan, encompassing not only processes and structures but also our culture and the way we get things done.” More and more people are using their access to the internet and smartphones to communicate with others.

Advancements in Paraguay have allowed the country to move forward with new opportunities to ensure that those in rural areas will continue to grow from extreme poverty. Even with a few setbacks along the way, Paraguay can grow economically, gain more health care opportunities and develop more ideas for technological advancements.

– Emilia Rivera
Photo: U.S. Dept of Defense

Malaria in Burkina Faso
Starting every July, citizens of Burkina Faso prepare themselves. While some prepare for a harvest or the school year to begin, many prepare for mosquitoes. Peak mosquito and peak malaria season begin in July and runs through September.

Malaria is a serious burden on the Burkinabé people. In 2015, the disease, which is treatable and preventable, was responsible for 61.5 percent of hospitalizations and 30.5 percent of deaths in Burkina Faso. That same year, malaria accounted for roughly 70 percent of deaths in children under the age of 5. In 2018, there were 11,915,816 presumed and confirmed cases of malaria. While reports say that 4,144 people died of malaria in 2018, experts estimate the true total to be above 30,000.

However, change is on the horizon. Recently, the nonprofit research group Target Malaria began testing its newest weapon against malaria: mosquitoes.

Using Mosquitoes to fight Malaria in Burkina Faso

In the small village of Bana, 10,000 genetically modified, sterile male mosquitoes, coated in fluorescent dust, were released into the wild. Although mosquitoes have been genetically modified in Brazil and the Cayman Islands, this was the first time such mosquitoes have been released in Africa, and out in the world.

This release was a long time in the making. Target Malaria, led by Abdoulaye Diabaté, began research in 2012. However, in the seven years it took to reach this point, far more was needed than just research. Diabaté and his research team also sought to bring in the community. Such an experiment was sure the bring skepticism and criticism from local tribes, so Target Malaria sought the approval of tribe leaders before letting the mosquitoes into the wild. In May 2018, all of the tribe leaders signed off on the project, giving their approval.

The overall goal of Target Malaria’s research is to develop a special gene in mosquitoes that will squash the malaria gene, effectively eradicating malaria in Burkina Faso and wherever else the mosquitoes reach.

This first release is a stress test. Over 99 percent of the mosquitoes released are sterile males, which cannot bite and pass on their genes. Scientists wanted to test how these mosquitoes fare in the wild, track their behaviors, flight patterns and flight dispersal, as well as see how the ecosystem reacts to these new mosquitoes. The mosquitoes should die within a matter of months.

The next step for Target Malaria is research and analysis. According to Diabaté, the team plans to spend the next year working with information from this stress test. Then, they will continue to develop the malaria-squashing gene, as well as continue to build community relations. The remaining scientific research component should be completed in two to three years. However, because of developing community relationships and education processes, the group expects the mosquitoes equipped with the gene to be released in six or seven years.

Because of the nature of this project, Target Malaria has not been without criticism. Environmentalists warn of the dangers of tampering with an entire species of mosquito and the possibility of unforeseen consequences. According to Diabaté, the group understands this but also highlight the tremendous possibilities if the project is successful. There are 3,500 different species of mosquito in Africa and 850 in West Africa alone. Target Malaria is attacking one species of mosquito and possibly saving thousands, if not millions of lives from malaria in Burkina Faso and the rest of Africa. For Target Malaria, the risk is worth the reward.

What is Target Malaria?

Target Malaria is a nonprofit research group that aims to develop and share technology for malaria control in Africa. The team’s vision is to create a world free of malaria. The team consists of scientists, stakeholder engagement teams, risk assessment teams and regulatory experts from Africa, Europe and North America. They operate from Burkina Faso, Mali and Uganda.

Diabaté himself is a native of Burkina Faso and is familiar with malaria after suffering through it himself. His wife, children and sibling have also suffered bouts with malaria as well. Malaria in Burkina Faso is a far too common issue for his family and millions of others.

The research Target Malaria is doing has the possibility of eradicating malaria. If successful, the genetically modified mosquitoes will replace the standard bed nets and medical treatments. These mosquitoes have the potential to change the lives of millions throughout Africa.

– Andrew Edwards
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Initiatives to Eliminate Malaria
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) have initiatives in place to help eradicate malaria with hopes that malaria will be eliminated by 2030. Five initiatives to eliminate malaria are Municipalities for Zero Malaria, Malaria Champions of the Americas, Global Technical Strategy for Malaria, Millennium Development Goal 6, Rapid Access Expansion Program (RAcE) and the Global Malaria Program. It is estimated that half the world’s population, 108 million, is at risk for malaria.

Municipalities for Zero Malaria

Municipalities for Zero Malaria is a newly launched initiative by PAHO arriving on World Malaria Day, April 25, 2019. This initiative is focused on the Americas and its struggles and triumphs with malaria. Recent research has found that malaria in 19 countries exists in 25 municipalities. These 25 municipalities hold 50 percent of all cases of malaria in the Americas. This new initiative will focus on the empowerment of communities and addressing malaria at a local level. Local level measures allow for earlier access to diagnosis and treatment for malaria patients as well as raising awareness of seeking health care treatment. According to Dr. Marcos Espinal, the goals and keys for the success of the Municipalities for Zero Malaria are that “Organizations, citizens and local government authorities must be engaged in developing key interventions for malaria elimination at a municipality level if we are to ensure that no one gets left behind.” This initiative will be a part of the current program, Malaria Champions of Americas.

Malaria Champions of the Americas

Malaria Champions of the Americas started in 2009 and honors countries that have the best practices for eliminating malaria. This organization is a platform to continue to promote good news about malaria and the ongoing fight to eliminate it. The organization chooses and nominates municipalities based on efforts to eliminate malaria. This year, Malaria Champions of the Americas hopes that the new initiative, Municipalities for Zero Malaria, will spark new growth at local level prevention and eradication of malaria. Over the past 11 years, these great initiatives made an effort to eliminate malaria:

  1. In 2010, Suriname achieved a 90 percent decrease in the incidence of malaria through its National Malaria Board initiatives.
  2. Paraguay became champions in 2012 because of its efforts to control malaria on national, regional and local levels. Its National Malaria Eradication Service of the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare opened up 20 labs for diagnosis and seven entomology labs.
  3. Costa Rica accomplished a 100 percent decrease in malaria from 2000 until 2014 due to its national plan to eliminate malaria and supervised malaria treatment programs.
  4. Suriname decreased its malaria-related hospital admissions from 377 in 2003 to 11 in 2015. In addition, these hospitals had no death records for 2014 and 2015.
  5. El Salvador accomplished a decrease of 98 percent of malaria cases in 2014.
  6. Brazil’s National Program for the Prevention and Control of Malaria was about to treat 97 percent of patients within 24 hours after diagnosis of malaria in 2014.
  7. In 2017, Brazil became champions again after the number of malaria cases dropped from 8,000 in 2013 to 126 cases in October 2017. Brazil also reduced malaria in isolated populations.
  8. Paraguay received the WHO certification of a malaria-free country in 2017.

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization has three initiatives currently in motion. WHO’s Global Malaria Program is an overarching program that guides all of WHO’s initiatives and publishes a yearly malaria world report. As of 2017, incidence rates have dropped from “72 to 58 per 1000 population at risk” and deaths declined from 607,000 in 2010 to 435,000 in 2017. Currently, 46 countries have equal to or less than 10,000 cases of malaria.

The Global Technical Strategy for Malaria is a longterm initiative that will run from 2016 until 2030. The goal is to reduce case incidence and mortality rates by 90 percent, eliminate malaria in more than 35 countries and prevent the revitalization of malaria in areas it no longer exists. The program is primarily to help guide and support regional programs with the elimination and prevention of malaria.

Rapid Access Expansion Program (RAcE) concentrates on five endemic countries, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Nigeria, through an integrated community case management (iCCM) program. Each country has a corresponding organization partner to help obtain the goals of RAcE. The objectives of RAcE are to reduce the mortality rates, increase the access to diagnosis, treatment and referral services, meet the Millennium Development Goal 6 and provide evidence and support to WHO policymakers on iCCM. RAcE’s results have been successful with “over 8.2 million children under 5 were diagnosed and treated for malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea from 2013-2017.” The program also trained 8,420 health care workers to deliver these services to communities.

The Millennium Development Goal 6 has achieved its goal with a 37 percent decrease in cases of malaria over 15 years. Estimates determine that malaria-ridden countries avoided about 6.2 million deaths between 2000 and 2015 due to the initiatives to eliminate malaria.

– Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr

First Malaria Vaccine
Malaria is a parasitic virus transmitted through mosquito bites, and those infected with the disease often experience grave fevers, chills and flu-like symptoms. Although malaria can potentially end in death, physical precautions such as safety nets in malaria-dense environments and prompt treatment can usually prevent it. Unfortunately, because malaria largely affects poorer nations, it can be a great strain on national economies and impoverished populations. The World Health Organization is enlisting pilot testing for the first malaria vaccine.

The Problem

Malaria reportedly infects tens of millions, killing over 400,000 people worldwide every year and mostly children; Sub-Saharan African countries are the primary nations in which malaria thrives—the World Health Organization estimates that over 250,000 African children die every year from the virus.

The malaria-carrying parasite is able to evade victims’ immune systems by constantly changing its surface, which is why developing a vaccine against the virus has been so difficult. With today’s modern technology and scientific insight, that is beginning to change.

Testing the First Malaria Vaccine

In April of 2019, a large-scale pilot test of what many are dubbing the world’s first malaria vaccine to give partial protection to children began in Malawi. Scientists from the drug company GSK first created the RTS,S vaccine in 1987 and has been refining it ever since. Organizations like Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative have been instrumental in supporting this initiative.

The new RTS,S vaccine is attempting to teach the immune system how to attack the malaria parasite. A patient needs to receive the vaccine four times—once a month for three months, followed by a fourth and final dose 18 months later. In 2009, Kenya held smaller trials of the vaccine and concluded with a 40 percent protection rate of the five to-17 month-olds who received the vaccination. Since then, malaria rates have plateaued rather than decreased, which is another reason the new pilot test is so vital in the modern-day.

Now testing is taking place in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana with aims to immunize 120,000 children aged two-years-old and younger. These three countries are ideal for two reasons: one, these nations already have large anti-malaria programs in place; and two, in spite of this, they still have high numbers of malaria cases. As Dr. Matshidiso Moeti (World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa) stated, “Malaria is a constant threat to the African communities where this vaccine will be given” and explains that the vaccine is needed because “we know the power of vaccines to prevent killer diseases and [hope to] reach children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes.”

Looking Towards the Future

The purpose of the pilot tests is to build up evidence that can be reliably considered while WHO policy is debating its recommendations on the broader use of the RTS,S vaccine. The experiment will examine the reductions (if any) in child deaths, vaccine uptake rates (including how many children receive all four vaccinations) and the overall safety of the vaccine in routine use.

If the testing goes well, not only will the World Health Organization aid the vaccine to its core package of recommended measures for malaria prevention and treatment, but hopefully, it will begin a chain reaction that again sparks a decrease in malaria cases around the world.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr