Sunday, October 08, 2006

Malaria Reading

The Washington Post has an interesting article in today's [Sunday the 8th] Magazine section talking about the US Army's recent efforts to treat malaria.

- claims more than 1 million lives globally each year, 90 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa, the vast majority children. Young survivors are frequently left with cognitive damage that can cause them to fail at school and work. African adults, while having lived long enough to gain some immunity against malaria's worst effects, often lose weeks of work while recovering from the disease. Western economists estimate that malaria results in an economic loss of $12 billion annually in Africa, the continent least able to foot the bill for fighting the disease.

- In Kenya, the most reliable antimalarial drugs cost about $6, or about four days' earnings for the average Kenyan. The drugs are generally unavailable in shops. Accessible antimalarials in Kenya generally mean cheap antimalarials -- usually ranging from 10 to 30 Kenyan shillings, or roughly 15 to 40 cents -- but they are also the least effective treatments, as the disease has become wholly resistant to many of these drugs once famously effective.

- Heppner [the Army researcher] and his Army colleagues remain serious players in the vaccine research field only because of the largess of other groups. His department received $2.7 million last year from the U.S. Agency for International Development and $1 million from its vaccine collaborator GlaxoSmithKline. But his most critical source of funding in recent years has been the private nonprofit Malaria Vaccine Initiative, created with a grant from the Gates Foundation in 1999.

- Worldwide funding for malaria, last calculated by the research group Malaria R&D in 2004, stood at $323.4 million. Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs estimates it would take $3 billion to vaccinate every African child who needs it.

One of our hosts this summer for the Cameroon team, W Nen, actually got malaria a few months after they first arrived in Cameroon. She said it was as bad as you think it is. The Nens also have first hand experience with people in Cameroon getting malaria, but it being misdiagnosed or not taken seriously at first. It is very real to people living in Cameroon.

There is also a related debate between the environmental concerns of DDT versus how amazingly effective it is against malaria. Read some of these articles.

Photo: The box of the malaria medicine the Nens sent home with the team.

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