Your MACEPA Malaria Minute: Role models, malaria modeling, and more

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

Role models, malaria modeling, and more

Cheikh Ibra Guene, a community champion in Pikine, Senegal, led community engagement in his neighborhood to help clean up a rain-soaked school last week. The community youth council as well as the Pikine community relay network and neighbors all joined in the work together. Great to see all these actors working together for their community!

Photos: PATH/Mamadou Bismoy

Representatives from Imperial College London, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the Institute for Disease Modeling, and Johns Hopkins International Center of Excellence in Malaria Research presented their findings at the Malaria Modelling Consortium (MMC) this week in Lusaka. Implementing partners such as MACEPA, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), and others attended the meeting to join the discussion on how best to use available data as well as what information is still needed to achieve elimination. Ending malaria for good is a question of political will at the highest level and the lowest level, and these models are being turned into real decision-making tools at both the national and district level.

Photos: PATH/Sarah Pickersgill/Todd Jennings

PATH Zambia hosted a meeting this week with representatives from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary (Zambia and Seattle), Pilgrim Africa, and World Vision. The discussion centered around partnership investment on the Copperbelt aligned with Zambia’s national malaria strategy. Stay tuned!

Photo: PATH/Elizabeth Chiyende

In the news

Check out this Computer Weekly interview with Duncan Earle, MACEPA Director of Country Programs, on how data management and analytics are aiding malaria elimination efforts in Zambia. The article features PATH’s innovative work with partners like Tableau and Alteryx in utilizing data for decision-making, strategy development, and even predictive modeling.

We’re at a critical point in the fight against malaria, with drug-resistant strains appearing in Southeast Asia and threatening to spread to Africa. This strain of “super malaria” continues to make headlines. This week you can find coverage from the BBC, a statement from WHO, and an op-ed in the New York Times.

Donald McNeil Jr. gives a recap of new global health programs for Tetanus, HIV, and malaria announced in conjunction with the UN General Assembly in this New York Times article. These new programs include the expansion of PMI into Central and Western Africa. Programs launching in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Sierra Leone, and expanded programs in Burkina Faso are projected to protect 90 million more people from malaria. (AllAfrica)

Although malaria transmission is on the decline in Africa, rising global temperatures may bring a new menace, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads several viruses, including Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. At the same time, these rising global temperatures are pushing malaria into cooler climates, such as previously malaria-free high elevation areas. (via Thomson Reuters Foundation)

In this Devex article, Bill Gates warns against mass mosquito extermination. He argues that it would set a dangerous precedent for humans to interfere in the complex global ecosystem. This, however, hasn’t taken the Anopheles mosquito out of his crosshairs just yet, as gene-drive research to genetically alter the species continues.

An article published in The Lancet this week examines the link between stillbirths and malaria. The study found that both P. falciparum and P. vivax malaria in pregnancy increase the risk of stillbirth. It was also determined that there is an increased risk of stillbirth in areas of low malaria endemicity. As malaria levels decrease, protective immunity also wanes in populations with pre-existing immunity. This often results in higher densities of placental infections, a common cause of stillbirths.

A new $1 blood test can quickly distinguish between Zika and dengue viruses, researchers reported yesterday in Science Translational Medicine. Distinguishing between the two diseases and knowing which disease is spreading in an area are crucial for public health responses and research. (STAT)

In the GatesNotes blog this week, Tom Ellman of Doctors Without Borders discusses what his organization has learned about patient-centered HIV care. To lessen the burden of long travel times on individuals seeking HIV treatment, Community antiretroviral therapy groups (CAGs) were employed in which one member of the group is sent to pick up drugs for all the other group members on a rotating basis. Ellman comments “The essence of these models is very simple. You listen to patients, you trust them, and adapt your services to their needs.”

Hear from Janet Hemingway, outgoing director of the Liverpool School for Tropical Medicine about winning the fight against malaria. She argues, that as we keep making progress against the disease, our focus must shift to the heartlands and most challenging areas. (Financial Times)

Imagine 3D printing for pharmaceuticals. Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a technique that they say can micro-manufacture precise doses of drugs onto a variety of surfaces. Now imagine a Keurig for pharmaceuticals. Researchers at MIT are working on a different approach that would allow doctors to assemble drugs from pre-packaged basic components as needed. Analogies aside, these techniques have some exciting real-world implications. The vision is cheaper, more personalized medicine that, being broken down into its basic components, could be easier to transport and have longer shelf lives. (Gizmodo)

Researchers from Instituto de Medicina Molecular (iMM) Lisboa have found that what you eat could be a factor in your risk of contracting malaria. The researchers have found that one’s susceptibility to develop malaria depends on his or her metabolic state, which can be easily influenced by dietary patterns. (Science Daily)

Tata Trusts, the philanthropic arm of the Tata Group, an Indian multinational conglomerate holding company, is starting on a project to eliminate malaria in India. Tata Trusts will invest $70 million over the next five years to establish The Tata Institute of Genetics and Society. This new group that will collaborate with the University of California San Diego and the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in exploration of the new gene-editing technology that modifies the DNA of mosquitoes in order to halt the spread of malaria. (Economic Times)

Entomology masters

Last month Zambia held its first multi-disciplinary conference, lead by the Zambia Research Development Center (ZRDC). The conference served as a platform for students, lecturers, and researchers to showcase their work locally. The conference attracted researchers from the University of Zambia, University of Zimbabwe, Mulungushi University, Copperbelt University, Mukuba University, Kwame Nkuruma University, International Communications Technology (ICT), private firms like Stanchart bank and ZICTA, a judge from the Constitutional court, delegates from Vietnam, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Russia and South Korea, and of course, MACEPA!

Pictured below, MACEPA’s own entomological surveillance officer, Kochelani Saili, presents his findings on the role of entomological surveillance on the road to malaria elimination.

An integrated approach for IRS and ITNs

Indoor residual spraying (IRS) community engagement continues in Northern Province, Zambia. Elizabeth Chiyende from the MACEPA Zambia communications team joined the IRS community mobilization supervision in Kasama in support of AIRS (Africa IRS) this week. District and provincial staff leading the exercise used the opportunity to engage community members about the proper use of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) as well.

Photo: PATH/Elizabeth Chiyende

Pictured above, Mr. Lubemba, a provincial health officer, explains the importance of removing all household goods from the home before IRS is conducted. Informing the community of the upcoming IRS activities is essential to the success of the intervention. The IRS monitoring team and other team members also used this time to demonstrate how to properly hang an ITN. Pictured below is Mr. Milusa, an EHT in Kasama, hanging a community member’s ITN in hopes of encouraging the community to use this life-saving tool effectively.  

Photo: PATH/Elizabeth Chiyende

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