Your MACEPA Malaria Minute (12/16/16)

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By Stacey Naggiar
Advocacy and Communications Officer, MACEPA, and Global Health Corps Fellow

There’s lots of news this week. Before you read, check out this video of a mosquito having a blood meal from a capillary.

In the news

Jeff Bernson, PATH’s director of results management and learning, had a piece about data mapping in Zambia published in The Guardian. The article highlights the Visualize No Malaria partnership between PATH and Tableau that will support Ministry of Health staff with sophisticated data visualization tools that help to improve decision-making around malaria elimination strategies. “People from many different companies and backgrounds are coming together with creativity, a thirst for learning and optimism. Not a week goes by when I don’t hear how this opportunity has helped them improve their skills, or discover a new idea that our extended team can apply elsewhere,” Bernson wrote.

The WHO published its annual report the global status of malaria this week. The report highlights improvements such as greater access to malaria control measures for women and children across sub-Saharan Africa. But the region continues to carry the highest burden of malaria cases and deaths globally. WHO warns about the risk of flat-lining funding, saying currently, “…funding shortfalls and fragile health systems are undermining overall progress, jeopardizing the attainment of global targets.” See coverage on Reuters, Devex, LA Times, The Guardian and more.  

When Dr. Risintha Premaratne knew a ship with Burmese asylum-seekers was going to come ashore on Sri Lanka, he ensured that the passengers would promptly be screened for malaria upon arrival. This, according to an article in Devex, is just one example of the seriousness with which Sri Lanka approached its goal and ultimate success of eliminating malaria. Sri Lanka’s steadfast commitment to health and health infrastructure also make the country an important example for others to look to in elimination efforts. Our own Larry Slutsker snuck into the article at the end, emphasizing the need for Sri Lanka and other malaria-free countries to “maintain robust systems in order to provide a safety net, as was required with smallpox, and as is needed with polio.”

Malaria groups and the Indian Health Ministry say the country will need $18 billion to eliminate malaria by 2030. Outside of Africa, India has the highest burden of malaria in the world. Though there has been progress in recent decades much work remains to be done including, “distribution of medicines, improving hygiene and sanitation conditions in rural areas, adoption of innovative tools, deployment of healthcare workers and, most importantly, disease surveillance.” Read more in The Times of India.

NPR take you inside a lab at Imperial College London to see how researchers are using CRISPR technology and gene-drive to sterilize female mosquitoes, which alters the mosquito population and hopefully, wipes out malaria. This kind of gene-editing is the focus of ethical debate among the scientific community. “…Critics worry gene drives are just too powerful and could easily produce unintended consequences.”

A podcast on Scientific American’s 60-Second Science with Vanderbilt University researcher Jerod Denton talks about how, in addition to transmitting malaria parasites, mosquitoes also urinate on people. Yes, you read that right. Denton developed a chemical that blocks this rapid diuretic process and in some cases even ruptures the mosquitoes abdomen, killing them. The team wants to test the chemical for human safety and if it works, it could be a powerful tool against mosquitoes.

Quartz Africa paints a grim picture of a looming crisis of non-communicable diseases in Africa and questions whether countries are prepared to handle the onslaught of cases of diabetes, heart disease and cancer that come with decreases in infectious diseases and growing economies. Healthcare system expert Ernest Darkoh says, “Public health has to move away from “crisis mode” and into a broader understanding of a patient’s lifestyle, wellbeing and ongoing needs. The current system, which he describes as “curative,” is “innately flawed.”


Calling future fellows

Applications are open for two fellowships at MACEPA through Global Health Corps:

Advocacy & Communications Officer and Malaria Program Officer

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Global Health Corps is a leadership development organized focused on health equity that places young professionals from diverse backgrounds in global health organizations in the Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, the U.S. and Zambia.

Send interested candidates here to apply.


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The Malaria Minute will return in January.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

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