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Bart G.J. Knols's blog

Should we declare a state of emergency?

February 5, 2015 - 21:38 -- Bart G.J. Knols

Last week the Roll Back Malaria Vector Control Working Group organised its 10th meeting in Geneva. Close to 200 vector control specialists from more than 30 countries attended the three-day event. What started as a small gathering years ago has grown to become what could be considered the equivalent of the annual ASTMH meeting but with an exclusive focus on vectors. And although this 10th meeting was ample reason for celebration, it wasn't. The meeting was officially addressed by WHO's Global Malaria Programme Director Dr. Pedro Alonso, who recently took office. His opening statements were clear: Insecticide resistance is as much a threat to continued successful malaria control, if not more, than the current Asian threat of artemisinin resistance. Pyrethroids were great and have undoubtedly saved many thousands of lives, but the era in which we could safely rely on them, is coming to an end. And that's bad news.

MalariaWorld celebrates 5 years of online reporting on malaria!

December 11, 2014 - 22:15 -- Bart G.J. Knols

As of December 2014, MalariaWorld, the world's largest and only online scientific and social network for malaria professionals, is celebrating its 5th anniversary. It's been an adventure that we never imagined would become what it has become today. Many of you will not know the history of MalariaWorld, so here's a brief summary.

Dutch malaria researcher, Pètra Mens, wins Merial Award

June 2, 2015 - 12:52 -- Bart G.J. Knols
On the 27th of May malaria researcher Dr. Petra Mens of the Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands received the Merial Award. She will receive this award in Parasitology  for her innovative work in the field of malaria diagnostics. She has contributed to the access of malaria diagnostics and improved case finding of Malaria in Pregnancy. 
 
Pètra Mens (33) has been working on malaria control since 2004. She is currently working as researcher at the department of Biomedical Research at the Royal Tropical Institute.  She is conducting research on the treatment and diagnosis of malaria in general and in pregnant women in particular. The Merial Award is an encouragement for her already successful career.

Planes, trains and vehicles: The neglected role of passive transportation!

July 17, 2014 - 20:27 -- Bart G.J. Knols
I still remember the day ten years ago in a workshop in Sudan on the establishment of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) project for the control of An. arabiensis in northern Sudan. The discussion was mainly about the isolation of the area, in the middle of which old Prof. Osman Abdelnour, chief entomologist of Sudan who passed away two weeks ago, raised his hand and hardly pulled his body from the chair and asked: and what about passive transportation?...

Column: Bad science is just filth in the brain!

June 19, 2014 - 20:05 -- Bart G.J. Knols
Bear with me…. This complaint is not new, I know, but it is one that should be reiterated many times over: there is an extremely large gap in knowledge between researchers and the general public, and this is not good!
 
Certainly you must have come across people’s scientific ideas on trams, buses and trains (for those of us who do use public transport) or maybe at a dinner party or BBQ you are attending, or even, like I did, while waiting for your take-away food. The topics that come up more often are related to nutrition (it seems that the 5:2 diet is all the rage right now), the benefits of certain exercises (how billions of people are alive today without ever having done Yoga is perplexing to some) and more and more, the dangers of vaccines. In all of these discussions, give or take, the ‘science’ facts that are discussed are simply quick scans of a newspaper headline or maybe the first paragraph of the news article or worst, a facebook post on a friends wall that was read last night or this morning. Somehow, these quick, unreferenced, snippets of information get stuck in people’s minds and actually help set the foundations to very strong opinions. Usually, pathetic ones...

Column: How fragile we are

June 19, 2014 - 19:47 -- Bart G.J. Knols
So you live in South Sudan. Your nation exists for just less than two years, but unfortunately has been the scene of rivalry and outspoken conflict. You, together with hundreds of thousands fellow countrymen have had to flee. You have arrived in Ethiopia, after a difficult journey partly by foot and partly by boat. You have arrived in Ethiopia, you are safe.
 
Ethiopia has arranged for refugee camps sites to be set up to accommodate many of you. Unfortunately, the area is seasonally affected by malaria. And although you are very familiar with the dark side of malaria, it is the least of worries to you now. You have to get registered; you need to get food, cooking materials, and accommodation. Accommodation is a big word for the variety of tents, tukuls, plastic sheeting and other forms of shelter you see. But you collect what you can, and you get a net...

Who keeps track of it all? We're seeking nominations!

June 12, 2014 - 20:26 -- Bart G.J. Knols

As a malaria professional you are supposed to keep track of what is happening in our field. That's nothing new. As scholars, researchers, policy makers, doctors, students, etc. we read about new developments, we read scientific articles, and follow the news. And in doing so we are familiar with who is doing what, follows what approach, and is seeking for new solutions to end our common enemy. Again, that is nothing new. But allow us to challenge you... 

Column: Malaria in Shakespeare’s land

June 12, 2014 - 20:01 -- Bart G.J. Knols
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....”. Although actually this is one of the most famous introductions of the history of movies (and I am pretty sure that most of my readers have recognized it), this is also, in many senses, the way many health professionals think about malaria. Many western doctors and nurses see paludism (malaria) as a remote and tropical disease, even covered with a flavour of romanticism. The truth is that malaria has been prevalent in areas as far north as the city of Groningen (at 53º North) in Holland and has been active until the last decades of the 20th Century in countries as, among many others, The Netherlands, Spain or Australia. In some instances, as Spain or Italy, malaria was not completely eradicated until the 50s or 60s. For example, a breakout of indigenous cases of malaria was confirmed as late as 1972 in Corsica, the French Island of the Mediterranean Sea.

World Cup and malaria

June 10, 2014 - 15:19 -- Bart G.J. Knols

Roll Back Malaria today released a small video about football player Didier Drogba - who suffered malaria and is now an ambassador for our cause.

We ask our readers: What do you think of this video? Will it serve its purpose? Will it reach its target audience?

We are curious to know your thoughts. Is this good money spent on advocacy or a simplified message only mentioning nets?

The social press release is attached to this blog.

Column: Could Gorgas succeed in the 21st Century?

May 22, 2014 - 20:53 -- Bart G.J. Knols
This year marks a century since the official opening of the Panama Canal, one of the most iconic structures, one of the greatest engineering feats of all times, a symbol of technological prowess and ingenuity, and a testament of the sheer determination of the human spirit. While commemorating the monumental accomplishment embodied in this gigantic undertaking, we should take a pause to remember the thousands of lives lost during its construction to accidents and mosquito-borne diseases.
 
Besides the sheer magnitude of the project, one of the greatest challenges the builders of the Panama Canal faced was dealing with mosquito-borne diseases common to the area. When the United States took over construction of the Panama Canal on May 4, 1904, the Isthmus of Panama was under the firm control of tropical diseases. By then, approximately 12,000 workers had perished during the construction of the Panama Railway and over 22,000 during the French attempt to build the canal. Many of these deaths were due primarily to yellow fever and malaria. In fact, construction of the Panama Railway was stopped several times due to the lack of healthy workers. American project managers quickly realized that previous disease control efforts were ineffective and something had to be done. Armed with the information provided by Sir Ronald Ross in India in 1897 that malaria was spread by mosquitoes, mosquito control methods were implemented as part of the Panama Canal construction project...

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