By Sarah Pickersgill
Advocacy and Communications Officer, MACEPA, and Global Health Corps Fellow
Preparation for mass drug administration (MDA), a strategy to accelerate malaria elimination by treating people to get rid of parasites, is underway in Zambia’s Western Province. A major component of MDA is community sensitization—getting the community on board through performances by drama groups, dancers, and other forms of entertainment that draw large crowds and teach them about MDA and other malaria interventions. To demonstrate the safety of the MDA drug, DHAp, health workers are even “drinking the medicine” themselves during village meetings.
Below, a Manauli community health worker (left) dispels the notion that community health workers don’t participate in the MDA campaigns themselves by taking DHAp in front of a crowd. Sister Sylvia Chikwanda, leading by example, takes a dose of DHAp in Namakombwe community.
Mulobezi District Health Director Patson Mukubesa (below, left) says that “Mulauli is a very organized community where the MDA intervention will greatly be appreciated.”
A drama group (right) in Mulobezi Rural Health Clinic entertains an assembling crowd.
Outstanding health collaboration
Elaine Gibbons, director of corporate engagement at PATH, and Neal Myrick, director of the Tableau Foundation, accepted the “Outstanding Health Collaboration” Award for the Visualize No Malaria partnership at the Washington Global Health Alliance 2017 Pioneers of Global Health Awards last week in Seattle. The partnership between PATH, Tableau, and a coalition of technology partners supporting Zambia’s Ministry of Health uses data to support the country’s goal of eliminating malaria.
In the news
Sanchita Sharma of the Hindustan Times published a piece on mosquito catchers from an entomological study in Sinzaongwe, Zambia, quoting MACEPA’s own Kochelani Saili (below, holding light trap). Read about how MACEPA’s study is adding to the knowledge arsenal in the global fight against malaria.
Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis unveiled the world’s first breath test for malaria at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) annual meeting this year. Six compounds exhaled by malaria-infected people form a unique “breathprint” of the disease that analytical chemists can identify. They also found that malaria patients exhale a compound that attracts mosquitoes. As Washington University microbiologist Audrey Odom John says, “If mosquitoes can tell who’s infected with malaria, we should be able to, as well.” (Wired)
MDA isn’t just a malaria strategy. Health workers in rural Tanzania are treating entire at-risk populations for lymphatic filariasis, a painful and debilitating neglected tropical disease (NTD) that manifests in the swelling and thickening of the skin. Utilizing MDA strategies, Tanzania hopes to eliminate lymphatic filariasis by 2020. (Gates Notes)
An “old-fashioned” malaria strategy made a comeback at ASTMH this year. Brian Greenwood, an infectious disease specialist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, helped conduct seasonal malaria chemoprevention trials that showed a reduction in malaria prevalence of up to 84 percent. Using a combination of older drugs like sulphadoxine, pyrimethamine, and amodiaquine, ensures that today’s leading malaria treatment, artemisinin, remains effective. However, developing new chemoprevention drugs to outpace drug resistance remains a priority. (Nature)
After several field trials, Intellectual Ventures’ Artificial Intelligence (AI) microscope is hitting the market. At the World Conference of Science Journalists, CEO Nathan Myhrvold announced that, in partnership with a Chinese company, the Autoscope will be put into commercial production. Through deep-learning, the AI system can recognize the patterns of malaria infection by looking at microscope slides bearing stained blood samples. The autoscope has potential for wider use says Myhrvold who boasts, “if you can stain it, we can find it.” (GeekWire)
Last week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recognized Brazil, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic as the new Malaria Champions. These three countries were congratulated for their outstanding work in interrupting malaria transmission and developing local systems to access malaria diagnosis and treatment. (PAHO.org)
Sierra Leone launches a new five-year plan to tackle preventable maternal and child mortality. Current estimates suggest that up to 6 percent of women in Sierra Leone will die from maternal causes and an estimated 1 in 9 children will lose their life before their fifth birthday. The country’s new strategy aims to reduce the rate of maternal and child deaths by 45 and 55 percent, respectively, by 2021. (ReliefWeb)
The US Environmental Protection Agency has given its approval for MosquitoMate, a Kentucky-based biotechnology company, to release its Wolbachia-infected male mosquitoes in several parts of the United States. What the company calls ZAP males, infected Aedes aegypti (which are a vector for viruses such as yellow fever, dengue, and Zika) mate with the females and the eggs that are produced never hatch. (Quartz)
The latest SADC Malaria Report has revealed that over 60,000 people in the region died of malaria last year. Zambia and Tanzania reported reductions in malaria mortality while rates in other countries remained stable or increased. (ZNBC)