Just three little words, “global health security”, but they represent such depths of meaning. A hundred years of modern scientific enquiry into infectious diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, and now zika. The wake up call of SARS and swine flu, where viruses with dramatic results leapt the species barrier. The galvanising effect of West Africa’s Ebola epidemic on the WHO, the international NGO and donor community and on governments. The concern over emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, so many of them zoonotic in origin.
WHO European Region announced last week that Europe is now malaria free. This is great news to coincide with World Malaria Day this year. The challenge is to make sure Europe remains free of malaria into the future.
Europe has been declared malaria free before, back in 1975. What happened to allow it to return?
IN 2013, my colleague and I attended an ISNTD meeting (The International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases) in London where we heard about an innovative approach to expand rapid diagnosis of malaria by crowdsourcing volunteer help. Volunteers played an online game, and we wrote about it in Helping the Crowd Fight Malaria.
Two years later this game, has hunted down over 722,000 parasites.
The MalariaSpot online game takes just one minute and works by getting you to analyse real blood samples. Tap the parasites but don't let the leucocytes mislead you!
Why you should play?
A single diagnosis can take up to 30 minutes of a specialist's time, as they manually look for parasites in the blood with a microscope – up to 100 images have to be visually checked by a specialist. There aren’t enough in the world to deal with the 200 million people infected each year.
Crowdsourcing malaria parasite quantification could be a scalable, fast, ubiquitous and accurate screening system, essential for malaria eradication.
Take part for World Malaria Day 25th April
ISNTD are calling for more gamers to take part this weekend (it is after all world malaria day on Saturday 25th April).
Just follow this link, enjoy yourself, [free apps for android and iphone/ipad] and help others:
To find out more about the founder and the game you can view a video of his 2013 presentation here: Dr. Miguel Luengo-Oroz
A study in Science by Siraj and colleagues this week showed malaria occurs at higher altitudes in warmer years. Their modelling predicts that a one degree Celsius temperature rise in the Ethiopian highlands could lead to 2.8 million more cases in children each year in current malaria areas and over 400,000 cases in new areas. The finding is early warning of what could happen to malaria spread as the world warms if no action is taken.
The past century has seen unprecedented growth in cities around the world. Whilst the rise of megacities is a source of concern to some (see Feral cities, BBC Radio 4), according to researchers from the UK and USA, urbanization has been followed by a significant contraction in the extent of malaria throughout endemic countries.
April 25th is World Malaria
Day and we’ve had some mixed news this month concerning the GlaxoSmithKline
RTS,S vaccine, reported in New England Journal
of Medicine. 65% of children were protected in the 1st year,
but protection then declined to zero over the next 3 years: which means booster
shots will be essential. Vaccine efficacy also declined faster in children who were more exposed
to malaria than in those who had below-average exposure. Not the grail we hope
for, but we inch our way there.
Effectiveness is at the heart of the problem of malaria
control. Last year Oxfam’s report “Salt,
Sugar And Malaria Pills” highlighted their concerns on the effectiveness of the “Affordable
medicines facility for malaria” (AFMm)
hosted and managed by the Global Fund, with financial support from UNITAID, the
UK Department for International Development (DFID), and others.
A fuller discussion of these issues can be found in the April issue of Global Health Knowledge Base, along with the latest research on drug-related aspects of malaria control