In the news
Feeling generous in the holiday season aftermath? Donating money to organizations that fight malaria results in meaningful change according to an analysis by GiveWell which suggests where a donation is most effective using metrics that include the scale of a problem, how easy the problem is to control, and how neglected the problem is. (Via FastCoExist.com.)
Quartz Africa reports the results of a pilot study that tested a malaria vaccine made of genetically modified malaria parasites on ten people. The study, from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Fred Hutch in Seattle, found that the vaccine worked to induce immunity and prevent the disease. SF Gate has more on how the study used volunteers who were willing to be bitten by mosquitoes.
A new diagnostic for malaria made an appearance at the annual gathering of all things tech at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show this year. Ugandan start-up Matibabu presented a portable diagnostic that uses light and magnets to analyze blood for malaria. The diagnostic, currently 80 percent accurate, aims to achieve between 90–95 percent accuracy as the product is refined. (Via Techcrunch.)
Huffington Post’s Project Zero highlights efforts by the Malaria Consortium using volunteers to educate community members about neglected tropical diseases in Mozambique. The idea of using non-medical volunteers to host community dialogues in Africa is not new but valuable for educating communities in rural areas and for encouraging positive health behaviors.
In a perspective article in the New England Journal of Medicine, malaria researcher Kathryn Maitland paints a comprehensive picture of the malaria situation in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly among children who suffer from severe malaria and are at the greatest risk of death. Maitland discusses a clinical trial that she led that had important implications for treating severe malaria in children and calls for “an urgent need to catalyze and accelerate the severe-malaria research agenda, including the conduct of trials designed to be more efficient by addressing multiple questions more rapidly…” Watch a ten-minute film about Maitland’s FEAST trial on YouTube.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is backing two potentially powerful new tools to reduce mosquito populations in their push toward global eradication of malaria. One uses plastic tubes inserted into gaps in roofs that lure in mosquitoes and expose them to insecticides before they can get into homes. These “eave tubes” will be studied in 40 west African villages this year. The other uses a mixture of sugar and a small amount of insecticide to lure mosquitoes into bait traps outside homes. The Seattle Times reports that both techniques have shown initial success in early trials.
A new study may have figured out why some people don’t respond to malaria vaccines. When a person (or mouse) is infected with the malaria parasite, the parasite first infects liver cells and then red blood cells. Researchers at the University of Washington found that when mice with malaria in their liver got a vaccine an immune response occurred but when mice with malaria in their liver AND blood cells got a vaccine, no response occurred. This suggests mice (and possibly people) at a more advanced stage of malaria won’t respond to vaccines that just target the liver stage of the infection. Read more on MedicalXpress.
Indoor residual spraying supported by the Ministry of Health is underway in five provinces across Zambia. The ministry said the campaign would benefit three million people and urged Zambians to allow spray operators into their homes as spraying is an effective way to fight malaria. (Via The Times of Zambia.)
Outbreak News Today reports that in 2016 Venezuela saw the greatest number of malaria cases since 1971. The director general of health attributed the rise to “abandonment, ignorance and improvisation in malaria control program and immunizations.” An important warning to all malaria-endemic countries.
Bill Brieger raises the issue of how mosquito-borne illnesses are evolving in response to increasing urbanization in his latest Malaria Matters blog post. Brieger says more research needs to continuously monitor urban transmission cycles, mosquito changes, and insecticide resistance.
Researchers at Stanford University have developed a paper centrifuge to detect malaria in blood in 15 minutes. The centrifuge is handspun, only costs 20 cents, and it works, according to a study published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering. Read more about the “paperfuge” that’s “considered the fastest rotational speed ever recorded for a human-powered device” on Gizmodo.
In his latest post on gatesnotes, Bill Gates prescribes a dose of optimism for the new year writing that he’s hopeful for the future of the African continent. Why? Two of his reasons include that new hybridized cassava will increase crop yields and improve nutrition and that grandmothers are mobilizing communities to reduce maternal and child deaths.
From the field
As 2016 came to a close, deputies gathered in Senegal to sign a commitment to national malaria elimination. Above, a deputy hands the agreement to Minister of Health Awa Marie Coll Seck.
Just a reminder that MACEPA is now on Instagram! In case you missed it, below is a New Year message from MACEPA Director Rick Steketee.
2016 was another excellent year of global progress against #malaria and MACEPA continues to have the good fortune and opportunity to work with national governments dedicated to a malaria-free future in #Ethiopia, #Senegal, and #Zambia. With that in mind, this year will be a critical moment for our partnerships to demonstrate clear evidence of progress toward malaria elimination—we look forward to that challenge. -Rick Steketee Project Director, MACEPA