It’s a useful reminder to consider what one must have for successful genetic control strains for mosquitoes. While the focus is often on effectors for specific population manipulations, there are other bits “under the hood” that, like an engine, can’t really be ignored. It’s easy to forget how necessary these are when concentrating on something novel. I’ll give you my bare-bones list of basic genetic control features that sooner or later, you simply must have.
Four years ago, in 2009, I wrote an article for a Dutch newspaper (Bionieuws) with the title 'It is not yet time for a party on Zanzibar'. My article was a response to Tachi Yamada's blog on CNN 'Where have all the malaria patients gone?'. Yamada at that time was touring the spice island together with Ray Chambers and Margret Chan, and for sure their trip must have been pleasant and satisfying. After all, the renewed impetus (largely through the US Presidential Malaria Initiative) in malaria control was starting to pay off. Indoor residual spraying and massive distribution of LLINs yielded a spectacular decline in malaria prevalence. Yamada ends his commentary with a pretty strong statement...
The contest is now open for votes!
Since the start of the contest on 15 February, photos that tell stories about malaria have been flooding in. We have over 700 stunning entries. Now we would like YOU to select the finalists.
In a blog on LinkedIn yesterday, Ray Chambers, the Special Envoy for Malaria to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, sent out a public statement titled 'Saving the lives of 4 million children in 1000 days'. Making reference to the fact that the Millennium Development Goals end by December 2015, Chambers still holds the conviction that we can bring malaria mortality down to zero by the end of 2015. He asserts that the key players to accomplish this are in place, that the solution is simple and not expensive, and that we should do this. It sounds great - and given the comments under his blog ('Inspiring', 'Absolutely will join in an effort to save children', 'Few things could be more important') Chambers will certainly reach the goal of drawing more attention to malaria. Indeed, if you're not familiar with the malaria world, than it simply sounds outrageous that the world has not succeeded in putting every soul under a net in endemic settings, that we have not eliminated malaria in the south just like we did in the north half a Century ago, and that evidence (ca. 1 million deaths averted) over the last decade has clearly shown that we CAN save many lives. But is this realistic?
This morning I opened the newspaper and read about the breakthrough in science that we now have the complete biochemical 'routemap' of man, us. A few days ago I read an article about rats being capable of training other rats through electrical brain signals. Scientific developments are ongoing at an unprecedented speed - we live in exciting times.
It is well known that creative thinking is affected by environmental variables. That's why researchers engage in 'off-site' events. Take them out of their comfort zone of the lab or office and miracles may happen.
What does the future hold for the fight against malaria in Africa?
WINTER DIALOGUES OF AFRICAN MALARIA COALITION
MIT 26-27 JANUARY 2013
Despite the cold weather, malaria was definitely in the air in Cambridge during the last week in January. Shortly after the African Malaria Coalition held our Winter Dialogues at MIT, Harvard held a Malaria Forum just up the river. There were important differences in the two meetings, but the subject was clearly the same; how to strengthen the fight against malaria.
African Malaria Coalition and the Harvard Malaria Forum
Jim Webb's forthcoming book on the history of the fight against malaria in Africa is a plea for all of us..... (for me that includes WHO and USPMI folks)..... to learn from history, especially the history of these clever mosquitoes who quickly learn to overcome any synthetic biocide produced by the chemical industry. He cites the experience in Turkey, Pakistan and Sudan where the malaria programs went through 8 major classes of biocides after DDT lost its effect..........
Many malaria vector control specialists also work on dengue mosquitoes. After all, both diseases overlap in geographic distribution and are endemic throughout the tropics.
I have been a member of Rotary International for the past three years. During that time I have met several people working on malaria that are also Rotarians. Rotary International is heavily engaged in the polio eradication campaign (through its international campaign 'End polio now' and has been instrumental in getting polio vaccination underway in the 1980s when the disease was still rampant.
The video below is an interview with Dr. Jo Lines posted online two weeks ago. Dr. Lines is currently with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine again after several years of serving the World Health Organization in Geneva. He has been one of the frontline people in the science surrounding insecticide-treated bednets, and later in advocacy and uptake of this simple technology that has saved an estimated 1 million lives over the past decade. A remarkable achievement no doubt. Have a look...
Resistance to drugs and biocides happens when we try to control malaria. It is a historical pattern we have seen repeatedly. And we know that ACT is about the only way to treat malaria now in Africa, especially since resistance to chloroquine has been widespread for years.
And we are also seeing that the use of permethrin for spraying houses - the same biocide used to treat bednets - is beginning to cause resistance in mosquitoes in Africa too.
Six days ago, on January 11, Aaron Swartz committed suicide. As a malariologist you may not know who he was (I also had not heard of him to be honest), and that's why I pay tribute to him here. Aaron's extraordinary life, during which he mobilised millions of people around the world to fight for freedom on the web and free access to information, amongst many other accomplishments, ended too soon (read about him here). Why he committed suicide remains unknown, but he was charged with a 35 years sentence to prison and a 1 million dollar fine, for downloading several million scientific articles from the JSTOR database. Articles for which he had in mind to make them publicly available to the world. Because he believed that scientific information needs to be available to those that can make good use of it and should not be locked behind paywalls. At MalariaWorld we believe the same. But was it worth dying for this cause?
Well, for one thing, we know how to build durable electric power supplies.
When 17 hydroelectric dams were built on the Tennessee River in the southern USA after the Second World War, malaria disappeared from the region within a few years, and never returned. This was before DDT and chloroquine. Why? Because the availability of adequate water and affordable electricity resulted in increased income for the people, better housing with screens, and electric fans that made sleeping indoors comfortable in the hot, humid malaria season.
Epidemiological nugget three;
At MalariaWorld we aim to serve you - it's the very reason we exist.
But every year in December, during the festive season, we ask you for a small favour in return. A small gift in return for a full year of weekly newsletters that we drop in your mailbox, and a website full of information on malaria that you all receive for free.
This year we are not asking anything for MalariaWorld itself. Instead we have another cause for which we ask your support...
Malaria World has become a broad and wonderful forum for exchanging information on malaria, with about 7,000 members, coming into 2013. And lately there have been many items relevant to the big fight against malaria in Africa. These items have come from all over the world; the latest exciting one being the contribution by the people from Southern Africa who are showing us the way.
But there are important groups who are noticeable for their absence.
There is too little appreciation in current vector-borne disease paradigms for the intervention characteristics that are appropriate for stop-gap emergencies vs. those that are vital for the end-game: elimination. Regardless of whether you think elimination of any vector-borne disease is possible, it will not be accomplished without this.
Epidemiological Nugget Number Two........Many malaria programs are slowly converting to better diagnostic methods for reporting the prevalence of malaria. However the numbers have to be carefully analyzed, because of the artifacts caused by changes in False Positivity of the better diagnostic tests. The most common diagnostic method used in Africa - and reported through WHO - is called Clinical Diagnosis. This method, relying on the clinical judgement of the health care worker, has a False Positivity Rate of about 80%.
Epidemiological Nugget Number One: Bednets are avoided by adults, especially during the hot and humid malaria season.......However infants cannot escape their mothers protective care, thus infants usually sleep under bednets, even though no one else in the family does.........Now - what happens when groups like PMI report their success in terms of reduced Infant Mortality, or prevalence of malaria among infants?..........It is no surprise that Infant Mortality drops because the infants are sleeping under bednets.
Last week showed unambiguously that unless the world pulls up its sleeves, the hard-won gains of the last decade may go up in smoke. 'The world' in the previous sentence is you, us, all of us engaged as professionals in the field of malaria. MalariaWorld has put out warning signals over the last three years, about the problems with drug resistance, about artemisinin resistance in SE Asia and the risk of it escaping to other parts of the world, about impregnated bednets being shipped to parts of Africa where full-blown resistance against pyrethroids occurs, about counterfeit drugs undermining curative treatment and increasing the risk of resistance popping up, about the difficulties of vivax elimination, about the problems with zoonotic malaria, about...the list is endless I'm afraid...
Water, Engineers and Malaria..............
We are all sure in - our hearts - that suppression of malaria in Africa will improve the rate of economic development. Recently this hope was formalized in an African Futures Brief by Moyer and Emde at the Pardee Center of the University of Denver in their Brief #5 published in November. Their projections indicated that driving the malaria prevalence down to zero in Africa by 2025 would by 2050 result in an increase in income of $30 per year per person, compared to the current average for Africa in 2010 of only $1.25.
This contribution was posted as a comment by Dr. Bill Jobin, Director of Blue Nile Associates in response to the meeting report of the WHO Malaria Policy Advisory Committee that was held in September 2012.
It is ironic that a WHO policy meeting in September will ignore the terrible truth outlined by the WHO Director General Margaret Chan in December - that the malaria program is going to crash..... With due respect to Rob Newman and Margaret Chan in Geneva, I would like to suggest 6 steps to save their Global Malaria Program. My suggestions are simple applications of rational approaches to a problem, the same things we would do with any other problem in life. It does not take a Rocket Scientist to figure this out. Simply put, I suggest that they Narrow their Focus, Expand their Base, add 2 more Components to their Strategy, establish a valid Monitoring and Evaluation system, and set Realistic Goals against which they can Measure their Progress ......
The BBC published an article on the myths of mosquito repellers based on ultrasounds following articles on MalariaWorld. Amazingly, in spite of the massive evidence that is there to show that ultrasounds do nothing to repel mosquitoes, the electronics giant LG has started to market an air conditioner in Nigeria that incorporates ultrasound. The company published a news release titled 'LG fights malaria in Nigeria with hi-tech air conditioner'...
Every year in December, the global malaria community eagerly awaits the World Malaria Report published by the World Health Organization. Every year countries around the world report their status of the disease, and year after year over the last decade the World Malaria Report was like a Christmas gift. Our collective efforts were paying off, both mortality and morbidity was on the decline, and scaling up of the tools yielded what we expected: A massive reduction in malaria. But this year’s end is different…