Your MACEPA Malaria Minute: Tracking down malaria

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

Last week, MACEPA Senegal hosted a workshop in Saint Louis District for malaria case investigators. Investigators were trained to use DHIS 2 Tracker, an extension of the DHIS 2 platform that supports data management, collection, and analysis of transactional or disaggregated data, as well as the pilot mobile version.

Photo: PATH/Mamadou Bismoy.

Visualizing no malaria

On Monday, March 5, in San Francisco, the Visualize No Malaria (VNM) partners met as a full team for the first time since the partnership was established in 2014. The goals for the day-long meeting were for PATH and the VNM partners to work together to understand the drivers for the program’s successes and challenges to date and to envision new solutions to accelerate progress toward malaria elimination in Zambia, regionally, and beyond. Partners also met to develop a roadmap for the future of the partnership.

“It’s great to see so much enthusiasm from tech companies that are looking at investing their resources, time, and effort in helping push the elimination agenda” said MACEPA’s Kafula Silumbe who attended the meeting earlier this month.

Pictured below: Neal Myrick, Tableau’s director of social impact and head of the Tableau Foundation addresses VNM partners, including Cara Bradley with PATH (to his left).

Photos: PATH/Cassi Flint.

In the news

In a new paper in PLOS Pathogens, scientists at Johns Hopkins University are using the gene-editing technique CRISPR/Cas9 to knock out a gene called FREP1; a process which makes Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes less susceptible to the malaria parasite. Deleting FREP1 has proven to disrupt the cycle that allows the Plasmodium parasite to make its way to the mosquito’s salivary gland, where it can then be spread to humans. Although these findings could mean a promising new tool in the fight against malaria, there are many hurdles that must be overcome first—including the performance of these genetically modified mosquitoes in the wild, translation to other Anopheles subspecies, safety, and public opinion to name a few. (Gizmodo, GEN News)

The New York Times takes a detailed look at the genetic history of sickle cell anemia and its link to malaria. The overlapping areas where sickle cell anemia and malaria are prevalent led scientists to discover that carrying one copy of the sickle cell mutated gene provides some resistance to malaria. The sickle cell mutation seems to defend against malaria by starving the parasite. The malaria parasite feeds on hemoglobin, and so it’s possible that it can’t feed as easily on the sickle-shaped red blood cells.

The makers of Wallace and Gromit have joined the fight against malaria. The animators have made a short film, voiced by actor Hugh Laurie, showing that despite the enormous progress that has been made to fight the disease, half the world’s population is still at risk. As part of the Malaria Must Die, So Millions Can Live campaign, the film shows malaria’s long history and how the chance to eradicate it is within reach. (The Telegraph)

Researchers are trying to develop better diagnostic tools for non-malarial fevers. Although the use and availability of rapid diagnostic tests has led to more accurate malaria diagnosis, it has also led to an increase in antibiotic prescription. A new article in Science looks at what can be done to more accurately diagnose and treat other causes of fever.

A seven-year study conducted in urban Mali showed significant reductions in childhood mortality in areas where community health workers are bringing health services close to homes. The program, which cost $8 a year per person, focuses on curable illnesses like malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia. When the study began in 2008, one in seven children in the Bamako region died before the age of five. By 2015, that had fallen to one in 142, which is comparable to the rate in the United States. (UCSF Institute for Global Health Science)

Remember the team of Ugandan engineers developing a malaria diagnostic test using lights and magnets? If you missed their appearance in the Malaria Minute this January, never fear! They’re making headlines again. The team’s malaria test has won a prize at Pitch@Palace Africa 2.0, an event hosted by The Duke of York in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize. Check out this interview with Shafik Sekitto, co-creator of the device, in SciDev.Net.

In Liberia, Ebola killed about 11,000 people, but it also severely affected basic healthcare services. A new study from the University of Washington says more than 100,000 malaria cases went untreated in Liberia during the height of the Ebola crisis. The researchers also say it took a full year and a half for health services to return to the levels they were before the Ebola outbreak. (VOA)

The Zambian Government in partnership with UNAIDS has launched the Zambia Integrated Health Situation Room (ZIHSR) to enable effective monitoring of health information across the country. ZIHSR is an interactive electronic platform that makes HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, maternal and child health, and malaria data available to facilitate optimal and timely decision-making. (Lusaka Times)

At a Johns Hopkins University Tedx event last week, George Mwinnyaa called into question what the statistics often quoted by development programs really mean to community members on the ground. Having once worked as a supervisor for the distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, George argues that although many programs boast numbers of nets being distributed as an accomplishment, these numbers can be meaningless to the community they represent unless they are engaged and learn how these interventions can really help them. (MalariaMatters)

Conducting interviews for a qualitative study? The Duke Global Health Institute has published their top five tips for conducting effective qualitative interviews.

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