Your MACEPA Malaria Minute: Malaria and marathons

By Sarah Pickersgill
Advocacy and Communications Officer, MACEPA, and Global Health Corps Fellow

Representatives from PATH, NMEC, and Lafarge were on Radio Phoenix this week promoting the Lusaka Lafarge Marathon, happening this Saturday. The theme for the marathon is “Beat the Buzz: Malaria Ends with Me,” promoting Zambia’s malaria elimination agenda as well as fitness and healthy living. Zambia, which has seen a decrease in malaria infection rates, is seeing an increase in the rate of non-communicable diseases. So this year, PATH, the National Malaria Elimination Centre (NMEC), and Lafarge are teaming to fight them both!

Need another reason to sign up? Read this article in The New York Times on how exercise is good for the brain.

Pictured below (left to right): Glenda Kamalata (Lafarge), Abdi Mohamed (PATH), DJ Tash, and Busiku Hamainza (NMEC) in the studio.

Photo: Busiku Hamainza

Senegal is set on ending malaria

The National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) met in Saint Louis, Senegal, on Tuesday with local health and administrative authorities responsible for health education and with hygiene brigade officers from Matam, Saint Louis, and Louga in order to share the objectives, areas of focus, and interventions of the malaria prevention and pre-elimination program.

Photo: PATH/Mamadou Bismoy

Community health workers leading the way in Zambia

MACEPA is providing technical assistance in the north of the country in support of the NMEC and the Program for the Advancement of Malaria Outcomes (PAMO), our sister malaria project at PATH Zambia. Before the training of 264 new community health workers (CHWs), district and facility staff were oriented this week in Nchelenge, a district in high transmission Luapula Province.

Pictured below: Donald Mukumbuta (right) from the NMEC explains the malaria transmission cycle to participants. Grace Namwawa (left) from Lushiba Rural Health Post presents on the National Malaria Elimination Strategic Plan.

Photos: PATH/Chris Lungu

Data review meetings were held with Monze District, Southern Province, earlier this month. These data review meetings were meant to review and improve data quality collected at facility and community levels. The five-day meeting hosted a total of 237 participants (41 health staff and 196 CHWs).

Pictured below: CHWs review district dashboards in Tableau on Monze’s progress against malaria. Sandi Litia, MACEPA malaria surveillance officer, reviews data registers with CHWs.

Photos: PATH/Innocent Tembo

Tableau training

Jonathan Drummey, PATH’s resident data visualization guru, was in Lusaka last week to lead a training with the Tableau core user group in Zambia. Participants built on their data visualization experience, increasing their skills on understanding, organizing, and presenting malaria information. The next stage of this three-part training is slated for next month.

Photos: PATH/Todd Jennings

In the news

Findings recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences point to a possible malaria diagnostic test based on human odor. The study identified biomarkers that can indicate a malaria infection in both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. Researchers are optimistic about the findings, but also caution that they are a long way from a field-ready product. (GEN News)

Scientists have found a certain type of lizard in Papua New Guinea that has an extremely high concentration of green bile in its blood, actually turning the blood green! This green substance, being extremely toxic, is hypothesized to be an adaptive quality to ward off diseases. In fact, researchers have found this green lizard blood to be toxic to malaria parasites in lab settings. Innovation can come from some pretty odd places! (Quartz)

Research from the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge has shown that about 50,000 years ago, the malaria parasites diverged, with one “branch” eventually evolving into the most deadly human-infecting species, Plasmodium falciparum. Janet Hemingway, director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said the discovery was “really important” because it helps explain how and when the disease crossed the species barrier. She also noted that this research underlines why it is so important to monitor and react to the current movement of animal parasites and viruses into humans—not giving them the chance to become permanently transmitted from human to human. (BBC)

The first confirmed case of Ebola was found in the city of Mbandaka, DRC, last Thursday. This has raised concerns that the deadly disease could spread much faster there than in the rural areas where it was previously detected. (Reuters) Public health workers are preparing to roll out an experimental, Merck-produced Ebola vaccine under what are known as compassionate-use regulations. Everything you need to know about the vaccine is in Scientific American this week.

Ethiopia is determined to beat malaria by 2030. The National Malaria Programme coordinator at the Ministry of Health, Hiwot Solomon, stressed that the implementation of the malaria strategy has led to significant gains in the malaria fight since the plan was designed in 2009. (AllAfrica)

Venezuela was once the Americas’ most malaria-infected country, then nearly wiped out the disease between the 1960s and the 1980s. Today however, malaria rates soar once again. Venezuela is now one of four countries in the world, along with South Sudan, Yemen, and Nigeria, where malaria is increasing sharply. Writing recently in Science, Venezuelan malaria expert Maria Eugenia Grillet blamed “economic and political mismanagement,” which she said had “precipitated a general collapse of Venezuela’s health system, creating an ongoing humanitarian crisis with severe social consequences.” (The Guardian)

In Lee Country, Florida, a pilot program that enables the use of drones for mosquito control operations under more relaxed standards than would otherwise be required is being enacted. Lee Country, which hosts a mosquito population posing considerable public health risks, relies heavily on aerial operations, currently employing helicopters and small aircrafts in their mosquito control efforts. Some of the benefits of using drones to enhance this program would be collecting images of aquatic bodies to see where potential breeding grounds are as well as surveillance in more isolated areas for treatment missions. (CNBC)

Bill Brieger discusses malaria and food security this week on Malaria Matters. Brieger notes that the two issues do not exist in isolation, but intersect in the context of poverty, the environment, and climate change. Malaria poses a large economic burden on the communities it effects (days missed at work, inability to farm, etc.) and, in turn, studies suggest that relative agricultural success is associated with a lower human biting rate of malaria-infected mosquitoes. Further interdisciplinary research is needed to understand the complex interactions between poverty and malaria and to develop inter-sectional approaches.

Since 2014, the nation of São Tomé and Principe has had zero malaria deaths. One of a small group of African countries that are poised to eliminate malaria within the next five years, São Tomé and Principe is also the world’s highest per-capita spender on anti-malaria measures like indoor mosquito spraying and free treatment clinics—at $16 per person. São Tomé’s small size and natural isolation give it an advantage in fighting malaria. Similarly, other African islands, such as Cape Verde, Comoros, and Zanzibar, are close to eliminating malaria as well. But these countries offer proof that existing solutions to malaria elimination can work if pursued aggressively, said William Moss, a malaria expert at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. (Ozy)

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