HEALTH

by Ben Taylor

Prize for Dr Malecela
Tanzania’s Dr Mwele Malecela has been awarded the 2017 Kyelem Prize in recognition of her work in combating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Dr Malecela, now serving as a Director in the World Health Organisation (WHO) African regional office, was previously director general of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Tanzania. She was fired from that position by President Magufuli in December 2016, the day after she told the media there were signs that the Zika virus was present in Tanzania.

Dr Malecela’s prize was received on her behalf by Dr Upendo Mwingira, the NTD programme manager in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children. “It’s a real honour to have Dr Upendo receive the award on my behalf! Thanks Tanzania NTD Programme, it’s our collective success!” said Dr Malecela.

The Kyelem Prize is awarded by the NTDs research coalition (CORNTD), a group of researchers, programme implementers and their supporters with a shared goal of optimising elimination of NTDs. The prize is named after the late Dr Dominique Kyelem, a medical doctor from Burkina Faso who worked tirelessly in combating NTDs. (The Citizen)

Innovation in malaria prevention
The London Times recently published an article by Kate Wright about what it described as ‘Trojan cows’ and the worldwide campaign to defeat malaria. A biotech company is going further than the use of nets or insecticides to thwart the mosquitoes that carry malaria from person to person. They have now begun using livestock doused in human scent to lure mosquitoes to their deaths.

In much of East Africa livestock such as cows and goats often live alongside people. These animals get malaria. Mosquitoes tend to prefer sucking blood from humans. A potent cocktail of four or five human odour compounds has now been developed that can be sprayed on to animals so that they can develop their own alluring ‘eau de human’ rather than ‘eau de cologne’.

The concept has been tested on a small scale where researchers conducted experiments in which they go into a greenhouse, and then, together with the goats, face the mosquitos, noting where each one landed. The researchers found that mosquitos were attracted to the goats sprayed with a common worming medicine that also kills mosquitos. The mosquitos can thus be persuaded to bite cows or goats that will kill them and prevent them from spreading malaria. (The Times)

Malaria past and present
A new study has found that the prevalence of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa is at the lowest point since 1900. A team of researchers led by Professor Bob Snow of the Centre for Tropical Medicine & Global Health at Oxford University, spent 21 years finding and analysing data from over 50,000 surveys of malaria prevalence from across Africa.

The study found an overall decline of 24% in the number of children infected with malaria between 2010 and 2015, and a 40% drop between 1900 and 1929.

“Investment in malaria control in Africa has been sporadic in the past,” said Professor Snow. “The world has seen a reduction in malaria over the last 15 years, based largely on the use of treated bed nets and antimalarial drugs. If we take our eye off the ball, then rising drug resistance and falling control will lead to the sorts of increases we saw in the 90s.”

The financial boost provided by the Global Fund has, since 2005, led to one of the largest drops in malaria infection prevalence witnessed. However, gains made after 2005 have stalled since 2010. A decline in funding, coupled with increased insecticide and drug resistance, are the main obstacles to the elimination of malaria in Africa. (The Conversation)

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