Your MACEPA Malaria Minute (2/24/17)

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

Our own John Miller was interviewed by CCTV last week for a segment on the malaria situation in Zambia and the role that big data plays in elimination efforts.

In the news

New results from a clinical trial of Sanaria’s PfSPZ malaria vaccine in Germany found it was 100 percent effective in nine subjects who received three doses at four-week intervals. In a separate trial of 109 adult men and women conducted in Mali, the vaccine showed 48 percent efficacy. The vaccine was administered in five intravenous doses over five months. Principal investigator of the Mali trial, Dr. Sara Healy, told the NIH that “this level of sustained efficacy against malaria infection in a region with an intense transmission season has not been seen in previous malaria vaccine studies in Africa.” (via Science Daily and Futurism)

A pharmaceutical company in London is developing a vaccine that targets mosquito saliva to prevent the spread of infections from malaria to Zika to yellow fever. The vaccine, called AGS-v, will be tested in a phase I clinical trial in the US where human volunteers will get the vaccine and be bitten by disease-carrying mosquitoes in order to test the response. (via NBC News)

The topic of using gene editing techniques like CRISPR to wipe out malaria continues to gain attention and generate discussion among scientists. Coming off the heels of the AAAS annual conference, Science Mag has a brief interview with evolutionary ecologist James Collins about concerns associated with introducing this kind of technology.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that a spectrometer can successfully distinguish fake antimalarial drugs from the real thing. The simple device—which uses infrared light to scan the drugs—holds promise that when connected to a cellphone app, it can be a powerful tool for countries where counterfeit drugs are common. (via The Guardian)

More research from LSHTM this week found that, when compared to traditional thatched homes, modern houses in sub-Saharan Africa—which consist of metal roofs and finished walls—are associated with a 9 percent reduction in the odds of children being infected with malaria. (via Eurekalert)

Does the genome of the malaria parasite hold the key to new and effective drugs against the disease? That’s the hope of a new Gates Foundation grant awarded to researchers at UCSD. Facing the threat of drug resistance, the consortium is working with other research institutions to identify and test potential new drugs. (via The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The New England Journal of Medicine has published the first-known case study of artemisinin drug resistance in a Chinese patient who traveled from Africa. Experts have feared that resistance to this first-line treatment for malaria (that is already ravaging Southeast Asia) would emerge in Africa. One of the researchers said the spread of artemisinin resistance “would be a major setback” and urged that the issue be regularly monitored worldwide. (via Eurekalert)

Kenya’s Standard Digital reports that the country failed to achieve it’s 2017 malaria elimination targets. At a meeting in Nairobi, malaria experts pointed to mosquito behavior change—feeding outdoors and during daylight—and insecticide resistance as possible culprits for falling short of the goals.

“…it is very much worth building these bridges and cross linking.” That’s the message Philip Eckhoff, from the Institute for Disease Modeling, has in a video posted on Eckhoff outlines the essential components for controlling and eliminating malaria and encourages scientists from different disciplines to come together and talk to each other.

Malaria advocacy: NYC style. Medicines for Malaria Venture has produced a campaign that will run three times per hour, from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m., on a Times Square billboard, until World Malaria Day. See it here on their website.

Fun with global health

Ever get tripped up on infectious disease lingo? Know the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic? Here’s a list of 11 key terms from NPR’s goats and soda

Another fun read from NPR’s goats and soda that takes us deep inside a Malaysian rain forest to explore quirky animals and the birthplace of killer viruses. The reporter paints a picture of infectious diseases on the rise with the number of outbreaks tripling each year. 

Check out this interactive map of coverage.

In Zambia, Round 2 of mass drug administration (MDA) is wrapping up and the team has reached almost 200,000 people. That’s slightly less than the 250,000 in Round 1, mostly due to the challenges of rainy season, but it’s still twice as big as previous research rounds of MDA. Carrying out an MDA round is a major endeavor and MACEPA’s senior program officer Kafula Silumbe and the rest of the team have worked hard on trainings, coordination, and tracking of data.

Bike alert! These bicycles are headed to Zambia’s Western Province, where community health workers will use them for community surveillance.

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