By Sarah Pickersgill
Advocacy and Communications Officer, MACEPA, and Global Health Corps Fellow
Neal Myrick, director of social impact and head of the Tableau Foundation, was in Zambia last week to learn about the use of data to defeat malaria. It was Neal’s first trip to Zambia and his listening tour—in which he heard how is Tableau being used, and how the Visualize No Malaria partnership (an innovative initiative that brings together the private sector, Zambia’s government, and PATH’s global health expertise) can better serve the country’s elimination agenda—included meeting with National Malaria Elimination Centre director Elizabeth Chizema at the NMEC and visiting two districts (Chikankata and Kazungula) to meet with officials, facility staff, and community health workers. He topped off his trip by featuring on two panels at the ICT4D conference in Lusaka. Neal traveled with a film crew so stay tuned for the footage!
Pictured below: Neal at Chikankata District Health Office; Neal talking with MACEPA scientist Dan Bridges while the cameras roll; MACEPA monitoring and evaluation officer Chris Lungu doing an on-camera interview; and Neal talking with the environmental health technologist at Nansenga rural health center in Chikankata.
Z-CHaRMing the Lusaka research community
Z-CHaRM (the Zambian Community Health Science Research Meeting) is a recent initiative formed to share health research with students, doctors, partners, and the wider research community in Zambia. The group meets for lunch once a month at Lusaka’s University Teaching Hospital to share work and encourage collaboration. This month, PATH presented on some of the amazing research going on in the lab.
Pictured below: MACEPA’s senior technical advisor in Zambia, John Miller, gives the group an overview of the work and research MACEPA has been doing in Zambia for the last decade. Laboratory scientists Sandra Chishimba and Mulenga Mwenda represented the lab brilliantly as they presented their work on molecular surveillance and genetic findings from the CoRE study (Community-led Responses for Elimination) being conducted in Southern Province.
In the news
Research published in Science this week from Britain’s Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of South Florida (USF) has identified which genes in the malaria parasite’s genetic code are essential for survival. This breakthrough will help narrow down a list of targets from the parasite’s 5,400 genes for the development of new drugs or vaccines. (Reuters)
New mosquito nets developed by the Vestergaard company that utilized two chemicals are being recommended by the World Health Organization. The new nets contain pyrethroids, a class of chemicals used in nets for over a decade, along with the newer compound, piperonyl butoxide, which blocks mosquitoes’ ability to break down pyrethroids. (The New York Times)
Results from a collaborative World Bank study in Nigeria show that a TV-drama called Shuga (in which the characters confront issues like abuse, manipulation, teenage pregnancy, questioning sexual identity, and safe sex) is improving public health knowledge and behavior change. Among viewers of the show, prevalence of chlamydia dropped by 58 percent, reporting of multiple partners dropped by 15 percent, and participants were 35 percent more likely to report getting tested for HIV during the six-month study period compared to a placebo group that viewed a movie of similar content and length but without the intentional messaging. (Public Health Post)
A new study in mBio has shown that bone marrow is an important, and previously unstudied, reservoir for malaria parasite replication and transmission. In bone marrow, the parasite may remain undetectable by blood tests, and as a result, public health workers may not be able to accurately estimate the parasite burden, says Matthias Marti, senior author at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and at the University of Glasgow. (Science Daily)
National Health Week in Zambia was this week. Check out pictures of the NMEC’s own Ernest Kakoma (picture #7) showing off the malaria booth to President Lungu in The Lusaka Times!
Almost all current malaria treatment strategies are focused on the blood stage of infection. One reason for this is the difficulty studying the liver stage of the infection poses. In a recent study published in Nature Communications, researchers developed an updated in vitro method using 384-well plates to cultivate primary human liver cells to more quickly screen pre-clinical drugs and vaccines. This development has enabled research on a vaccine to prevent the parasite from infecting liver cells. (News-Medical.net)
A study published in Malaria Journal examines the slow progress in the fight against malaria being made in the DRC – a country which hosts 10 percent of all deaths related to malaria worldwide. The study suggests that inappropriate use of drugs may be one of the factors of this below average performance. Some of the challenges reported include the continued use of quinine to treat uncomplicated malaria, low adherence to treatment policy, distribution of anti-malarial drugs without confirmed diagnosis, and abundant concomitant prescription of antibiotics.