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Last week at MalariaWorld: History being written in front of our eyes...

July 31, 2014 - 21:59 -- Bart G.J. Knols
This week the press around the world reports on the developments with the RTS'S vaccine, which pharmaceutical company GSK has now filed for registration with the European Medical Association. This is a first in history, the first time that a malaria vaccine has reached this stage of development. So remember, these are days that history is written, and years form now you will read in textbooks about what happened in July 2014. Enough reason to pop the champagne one could argue, but thirty years of developing this vaccine and bringing it to this level, still leaves some open questions.
 
Interestingly, it is the ebola outbreak in West Africa that got us thinking about the hurdles that RTS'S might face. The fact that well-willing health workers and hordes of staff from MSF fail to contain the ebola epidemic is partially due to the fact that they cannot heal infected individuals. Over 90% of ebola-infected patients die. Thus, it is no surprise that in affected communities there is considerable anxiety about the presence of health workers. Now to the extent that health workers are blamed for spreading the virus. This would, no doubt, be completely different if they could simply cure people with drugs.
 
In some way there is a parallel with a vaccine that does not provide full protection. If a mother takes her child for 3 injections with RTS'S but is informed that the jabs only provide partial protection and that the child can still go down with malaria, then how long will it take before communities start to oppose vaccinations? And could this turn worse: Could resisting communities now refuse all vaccinations, including those from the EPI programme, some of which provide life-long protection, simply because RTS'S is not providing adequate protection?
 
The question in front of us professionals could be this: Would you rely on vaccination with RTS'S? For your children?
 
This week's column, by Kate Dieringer touches on these very issues from a different perspective: the way we view acute problems versus chronic ones. Read her column 'Viral panic is contagious'.
 
Also this week a contribution from Bill Jobin, about the Yale Declaration on malaria that was drafted by a team of experts back in 2008. Six years later, just recently, the Jerusalem Declaration was signed by another group. Compare the two and draw your conclusions...
 
Enjoy this week's MalariaWorld - the MW team.
 

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Column: Viral panic is contagious - by Kate Dieringer

July 31, 2014 - 18:22 -- Ingeborg van Schayk
This column was contributed by Kate Dieringer
 
Is it fear or fatalism that clouds vector borne disease outbreaks?
Boom. Boom. A louder, more authoritative ‘Thwack’. Four men are pounding around the previously unscreened house, covering bits ripped by their efforts with smaller, make shift patches of screen. Inside, others are scrambling to hang previously disregarded bed nets. Patients are showing up to the hospital in droves, complaining of arthralgia, fever and malaise. Medical staff members are succumbing as well; affecting hospital and clinic based operations with increased patient volume and decreased clinical capacity. The offending illness is chikungunya fever (ChikV), not malaria or dengue, and it is gripping Haitian society in more ways than physiological. This Caribbean nation has been devastated by hurricanes, earthquakes and a too recent cholera epidemic. Adding to the burden of disease and bandwidth of citizens and public health officials, the current chikungunya outbreak is causing quite a disruption here in Haiti...

Yale Declaration on Malaria of November 2008

July 29, 2014 - 16:36 -- William Jobin

We are all pleased with development and posting of the Jerusalem Declaration on Malaria of December 2013. It follows in the footsteps of a previous Declaration on Malaria issued at Yale University in November of 2008. Please compare the two, they show remarkable similarities.

Both Declarations came after several days of discussions by people with a passionate interest in suppressing malaria in Africa, motivated by the reminder that a million people die of malaria in Africa every year, and most of them are children.

Column: Will the current global malaria programme pass a Cochrane Review?

July 24, 2014 - 21:12 -- Bart G.J. Knols
The column below was contributed by Dr. Manuel Lluberas.
 
Public health entomology was an exciting career during the latter part of the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th Century. During those years, the “let’s go” attitude of a number of public health entomologists made significant strides against vector-borne diseases like malaria and yellow fever. Their discoveries were so significant and earth-shattering that they were recognized by their peers, their governments and the world and continue to amaze many in the public health arena. Some were even recognized and rewarded with Nobel Prizes...

Link to WHO to advise on their global malaria strategy

July 22, 2014 - 16:30 -- William Jobin

Dear Friends with experience in malaria control in Africa,

On my previous blog I explained that WHO needs your comments,
but I left out the link. Try this:

http://who.int/malaria/areas/global_technical_strategy/online_consultati...

And please give them your advice, they need it, and in fact are asking for it!

Bill

WHO needs your comments on their malaria strategy

July 18, 2014 - 17:01 -- William Jobin

To their credit, WHO is proposing to revise their global malaria strategy, and have a 16 member Steering Committee who will take comments for the next few weeks.

However, I was devastated to read in the biographies of their Steering Committee that not one of them has field experience in fighting malaria in Africa!

So if you have ANY experience in fighting malaria in Africa, especially if you work for MOH malaria control programs, or perhaps with the US PMI, or with RBM, please comment on their proposed strategy. You are the people who know what is really needed.

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?...

YouTube film Science to accelerate us to malaria eradication

July 17, 2014 - 19:30 -- MESA Alliance
A great new science lecture is available on the MESA YouTube channel: 'Science to accelerate us to malaria eradication',  presented by Lee Hall at the Keystone Symposium 2014.
 
Lee presents some key concepts on the vibrant biomedical R&D agenda which we need to support progress towards global malaria eradication. In his lecture, he poses the question of how the changing epidemiology of malaria impacts on research and interventions and highlights five challenges:
 

Column: Vivax malaria, breaking the cycle of endless suffering - by George Jagoe

July 10, 2014 - 10:56 -- Ingeborg van Schayk
Tags: 
"And I saw Sisyphus at his endless task raising his prodigious stone with both his hands. With hands and feet he tried to roll it up to the top of the hill, but just before he could roll it over the other side, its weight would be too much for him, and the pitiless stone would come thundering down again on to the plain. Then he would begin trying to push it up hill again, and the sweat ran off him and the steam rose after him."
The Odyssey of Homer, translated by Samuel Butler
 

Column: World cup fever - by Jenni Lawton

July 3, 2014 - 19:01 -- Ingeborg van Schayk

At the time of writing, the World Cup is well underway and with the quarter-finals about to begin the competition is heating up. So too will any fans who’ve been unlucky enough to catch malaria! So what can the World Cup tell us about the global malaria picture?

Smell of infected people attracts more anophelines

July 1, 2014 - 11:13 -- William Jobin
Tags: 

We are all aware of the Stinky Feet effect, in which human skin odors attract female anophelines in a dark bedroom. And to many of us, this suggests that we should wash our feet before going to bed.

Now, Mescher of ETH Zurich, De Moraes and others - in a recent article in Proc. of the National Academy - indicated that mice infected with Plasmodia are more attractive to anophelines than ordinary mice. SO

If this evolved as a durable trait in anopheline mosquitoes, it means it conferred either a survival advantage, or a reproductive advantage to the mosquito.

Injectable artesunate: cure or killer?

June 27, 2014 - 13:16 -- Irene Teis

A document in Scientific American (June 2014) describes the activities of MVV Medecines for Malaria Ventures, a « non profit » organization (association sans but lucratif) located at Geneva. It is surprising to learn that they sell Artesunate in monotherapy for intravenous injection at high doses ; in cooperation with WHO and Médecins sans Frontières.

African Malaria Dialogue features 2013 Jerusalem Declaration

June 23, 2014 - 11:36 -- William Jobin

African Malaria Dialogue features 2013 Jerusalem Declaration about fighting Malaria in Africa

Dialogue on 18 June 2014

Our usual informal luncheon turned out even better than expected. We met in the outer courtyard of the restaurant ‘Au Bon Pain’ in Harvard Square of Cambridge, Massachusetts, on a beautiful summer day.

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...

Review of 'what works' in elimination advocacy

June 19, 2014 - 18:55 -- MESA Alliance
Malaria Journal publishes an Open Access timely review of 'what works' in elimination advocacy. The authors identify 7 key advocacy elements for disease elimination:
 
  1. A global elimination plan, supported by international health bodies.
  2. Thorough costings and tools to support the business case.
  3. An approach that is positioned within a development framework.
  4. Core elimination advocacy messages.
  5. Provision of advocacy tools for partners.
  6. Extensive and effective community engagement.
  7. Strong partnerships

Sudden jumps in per capita cost of US PMI operations

June 19, 2014 - 15:18 -- William Jobin

In April the US PMI issued their 8th Annual Report to the US Congress on their malaria suppression operations in Africa. In the first table of the Appendix One of this report they gave their total expenditures for Africa, and also the coverage they had in each country with their spray operations. Adjusting these figures to reflect only their African operations, it appears that there have been two sudden jumps in their per capita costs.

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.

MIT Alumni suggest Exit Strategies for Malaria Suppression in Africa

June 12, 2014 - 11:42 -- William Jobin

MIT ALUMNI SUGGEST MALARIA ELIMINATION STRATEGIES FOR AFRICA

7 JUNE 2014

At a Reunion of the Class of 1959 in June 2014 under the Great Dome of MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, several suggestions were developed for an Exit Strategy from the fight against malaria in Africa. Malaria currently kills about a million Africans per year, mostly children who succumb to the extreme fevers transmitted by night-biting mosquitoes.

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: No Substitute for Local Expertise

June 5, 2014 - 17:25 -- Ingeborg van Schayk
A regional powerhouse in operational malaria research, training and policy
 
A three year old boy cowers behind his mother, looking up at me with tears in his tired eyes. I quietly greet his mother in Chichewa, the language common to the Southern region of Malawi. It takes time to gain an audience not only with this tiny, frightened child, but also with his mother. I smile, being sure not to reveal my teeth, surely to bring on further tears and sit next to her on the bench in our workspace. She smells of wood fire kitchen smoke and sweat from her 5 kilometer walk to our malaria research center at the District Hospital in Machinga, Malawi.

Prestigious NWO-Vidi grant to start a new malaria research group

June 3, 2014 - 11:37 -- Taco Kooij

Dear friends & colleagues,
I am extremely honoured, proud, and happy to announce that I have been awarded a prestigious Vidi grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to start my own independent malaria research lab in Nijmegen. Below follows a press release providing further details.
Taco

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