Resources for World Malaria Day 2013

April 25, 2013

Not a word about condemning Rachel Carson.  No plea to use DDT to try to poison Africa or Asia to health.  That’s a great start.

More:

Mother and son under a protective bednet, the most efficient method to prevent malaria.  Columbia University MVSim image

Mother and son under a protective bednet, the most efficient method to prevent malaria. Columbia University MVSim image


V for Vaccine: A slightly rude film with a powerful point

January 10, 2013

A couple of kids in the Dallas area have died already from influenza — neither had been vaccinated against it.  Deaths have occurred across the nation, frequently in young, otherwise healthy people.

Nasty flu bugs going around this year, and the every-year epidemic has hit about two months early.  One part of the good news is that the vaccines this year are especially well-suited to target the viruses that cause the trouble.  The vaccines work well every year, but especially well in 2012 and 2013.

The bad news is that millions of people haven’t bothered to get vaccinated. That’s not good.

  1. Under Obamacare, there’s no copay for insurance for a flu shot.  It’s “free” if you have any kind of insurance. In addition, county health offices offer the vaccines for free to any comers.  A couple of weeks ago at the pharmacy I stood behind a woman who confessed she’d not gotten a flu shot (pharmacies are pushing vaccinations these days, to promote their mini-clinics).  “I’ve got that crappy teachers’ insurance,” she told the technician.  “It never pays for anything like that.”  The tech looked it up, and told her that her copay was zero, and her insurance paid for it — essentially a free shot, to her.  On the way into the clinic she said, “I’ve never gotten a flu shot before.”  Oy.
  2. Think Herd Immunity:  Are you usually healthy?  Great.  But if you’re pregnant, or you work around people who are or may be pregnant, or if you’re over 60, or if you have any chronic condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic sinusitis, or a raft of other things, you’re at risk, and you put others in those risk categories at risk.  My grandfather worked at a hospital while my mother and my oldest brother were living with him; after a week of my grandfather’s working in the polio ward, my brother came down with the disease.  Of course we don’t know for sure, but my grandfather kicked himself for 40 years, until his death, because he thought he’d brought home the disease my brother caught.  With vaccines, those incidents become much more rare.

Risking this blog’s G rating, I’m going to post this film, “V for Vaccine.”  Found it at New Anthropocene.  Turn up your offense filter, or ignore the language — but pay attention to what this guy says, PowerM1985:

Is it worth getting your children vaccinated if it risked them becoming autistic? In this video I give a short demonstration of why I personally believe that even if there was a risk of my child becoming autistic (AND THERE IS NOT!) I would still get them vaccinated.

You should probably know that the work of the Centers for Disease Control to correctly predict which strains of the viruses will be most prevalent, and get vaccines that will fight those viruses, has been very, very good this year.

  • Influenza A (H3N2), 2009 influenza A (H1N1), and influenza B viruses have all been identified in the U.S. this season. During the week of December 23-29, 2,346 of the 2,961 influenza positive tests reported to CDC were influenza A and 615 were influenza B viruses. Of the 1,234 influenza A viruses that were subtyped, 98% were H3 viruses and 2% were 2009 H1N1 viruses.
  • Since October 1, 2012, CDC has antigenically characterized 413 influenza viruses, including 17 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses, 281 influenza A (H3N2) viruses and 115 influenza B viruses.
    • All 17 of the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses were characterized as A/California/7/2009-like. This is the influenza A (H1N1) component of the Northern Hemisphere vaccine for the 2012-2013 season.
    • Of the 281 influenza A (H3N2) viruses, 279 (99%) were characterized as A/Victoria/361/2011-like. This is the influenza A (H3N2) component of the Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine for the 2012-2013 season.
    • Approximately 69% of the 115 influenza B viruses belonged to the B/Yamagata lineage of viruses, and were characterized as B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like, the influenza B component for the 2012-2013 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine. The remaining 31% of the tested influenza B viruses belonged to the B/Victoria lineage of viruses.

What are you waiting for?  Go get a flu shot!

More:

English: This is CDC Clinic Chief Nurse Lee An...

This is CDC Clinic Chief Nurse Lee Ann Jean-Louis extracting Influenza Virus Vaccine, Fluzone® from a 5 ml. vial. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Graphic on influenza, 2013 - Flu.gov

Information from Flu.gov; click image to get to active Flu Vaccine Finder


Still no ban on DDT: Treaty monitors allow DDT use to continue

December 16, 2012

Real news on a topic like DDT takes a while to filter into the public sphere, especially with interest groups, lobbyists and Astro-Turf groups working hard to fuzz up the messages.

News from the DDT Expert Group of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention was posted recently at the Stockholm Convention website — the meeting was held in early December in Geneva, Switzerland.

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pol...

Logo of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs Treaty) Wikipedia image

In the stuffy talk of international relations, the Stockholm Convention in this case refers to a treaty put into effect in 2001, sometimes known as the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty (POPs).  Now with more than 152 signatory nations and 178 entities offering some sort of ratification (not the U.S., sadly), the treaty urges control of chemicals that do not quickly break down once released into the environment, and which often end up as pollutants.  In setting up the agreement, there was a list of a dozen particularly nasty chemicals branded the “Dirty Dozen” particularly targeted for control due to their perniciousness — DDT was one of that group.

DDT can still play a role in fighting some insect-carried diseases, like malaria.  Since the treaty was worked out through the UN’s health arm, the World Health Organization (WHO), it holds a special reservation for DDT, keeping DDT available for use to fight disease.   Six years ago WHO developed a group to monitor DDT specifically, looking at whether it is still needed or whether its special provisions should be dropped.  The DDT Expert Group meets every two years.

Here’s the press release on the most recent meeting:

Stockholm Convention continues to allow DDT use for disease vector control

Fourth meeting of the DDT Expert Group assesses continued need for DDT, 3–5 December 2012, Geneva

Mosqutio larvae, image from WHO

Mosqutio larvae, WHO image

The Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention, under the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO), allows the use of the insecticide DDT in disease vector control to protect public health.

Mosquito larvae

The Stockholm Convention lists dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, better known at DDT, in its Annex B to restrict its production and use except for Parties that have notified the Secretariat of their intention to produce and /or use it for disease vector control. With the goal of reducing and ultimately eliminating the use of DDT, the Convention requires that the Conference of the Parties shall encourage each Party using DDT to develop and implement an action plan as part of the implementation plan of its obligation of the Convention.

At its fifth meeting held in April 2011, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention concluded that “countries that are relying on DDT for disease vector control may need to continue such use until locally appropriate and cost-effective alternatives are available for a sustainable transition away from DDT.” It also decided to evaluate the continued need for DDT for disease vector control at the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties “with the objective of accelerating the identification and development of locally appropriate cost-effective and safe alternatives.”

The DDT Expert Group was established in 2006 by the Conference of the Parties. The Group is mandated to assess, every two years, in consultation with the World Health Organization, the available scientific, technical, environmental and economic information related to production and use of DDT for consideration by the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention in its evaluation of continued need for DDT for disease vector control.

The fourth meeting of the DDT Expert Group reviewed as part of this ongoing assessment:

  1. Insecticide resistance (DDT and alternatives)
  2. New alternative products, including the work of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee
  3. Transition from DDT in disease vector control
  4. Decision support tool for vector control.

The DDT expert group recognized that there is a continued need for DDT in specific settings for disease vector control where effective or safer alternatives are still lacking. It recommended that the use of DDT in Indoor Residual Spray should be limited only to the most appropriate situations based on operational feasibility, epidemiological impact of disease transmission, entomological data and insecticide resistance management. It also recommended that countries should undertake further research and implementation of non-chemical methods and strategies for disease vector control to supplement reduced reliance on DDT.

The findings of the DDT Expert Group’s will be presented at the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, being held back-to-back with the meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Rotterdam and Basel conventions, from 28 April to 11 May 2013, in Geneva.

Nothing too exciting.  Environmentalists should note DDT is still available for use, where need is great.  Use should be carefully controlled.  Pro-DDT propagandists should note, but won’t, that there is no ban on DDT yet, and that DDT is still available to fight malaria, wherever health workers make a determination it can work.  If anyone is really paying attention, this is one more complete and total refutation of the DDT Ban Hoax.

Rachel Carson’s ghost expresses concern that there is not yet a safe substitute for DDT to fight malaria, but is gratified that disease fighters and serious scientists now follow the concepts of safe chemical use she urged in 1962.

More:


Laissez Faire Today, lazy and unfair as yesterday on issues of DDT

September 25, 2012

In June I drew encouragement that Henry I. Miller, the musty old anti-science physician at the Hoover Institution, had not renewed his annual plea to bring back DDT.  Miller is just one of the most predictable trolls of science and history; most years he waits until there are a number of West Nile virus victims, and then he claims we could have prevented it had we just jailed Rachel Carson and poisoned the hell out of America, Africa, Asia and the Moon with DDT.  For years I’ve reminded him in various fora that DDT is particularly inappropriate for West Nile . . .

Rachel Carson Homestead Springdale, PA

Rachel Carson Homestead Springdale, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since June, Miller popped up and popped off in Forbes, but using the event of the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s brilliant book Silent Spring.  Brilliance and science and history aside, Miller still believes that protecting wildlife and humans from DDT’s manifold harms is a threat to free enterprise — how can anyone be expected to make a profit if they can’t poison their customers?

Miller is not the only throwback to the time before the Age of Reason, though.  It’s time to put the rebuttals on the record, again.

Comes this morning Jeffrey Tucker of Laissez Faire Today, complaining that the resurgence of bedbugs in America is an assault on democracy, apple pie, free enterprise, and Rachel Carson should be exhumed and tortured for her personal banning of DDT worldwide.  You can read his screed.  He’s full of unrighteous and unholy indignation at imagined faults of Carson and imagined benignity of pesticides.

I responded (links added here):

I’m shocked by your mischaracterizations of Rachel Carson, her great book Silent Spring (which it appears to me you didn’t read and don’t know at all), and pesticide regulation. Consequently, you err in history and science, and conclusion. Let me detail the hub of your errors.

You wrote:

Carson decried the idea that man should rule nature. “Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species — man — acquired significant power to alter the nature of the world.” This anthropocentrism she decried.

Carson was concerned that we were changing things that would have greater effects later, and that those effects would hurt humans. Her concern was entirely anthropocentric: What makes life worth living? Should we use chemicals that kill our children, cripple us, and create havoc in the things we enjoy in the outdoors, especially if we don’t know the ultimate effects?

Exactly contrary to your claim, her book was directed at the quality and quantity of human lives. She wanted long, good lives, for more people. How could you miss that, if you read any of her writings?

She suggested that killing a bedbug is no different from killing your neighbor: “Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is — whether its victim is human or animal — we cannot expect things to be much better in this world… We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature.”

Carson never wrote that there should be difficulty in killing bedbugs. The passage you quote, but conspiratorially do not cite, comes not from Silent Spring, but from a commentary on a compilation of hunting stories.* She’s referring to killing for the sake of killing, in that passage. I think it’s rather dishonest to claim she equates fighting biting bedbugs with killing animals unsportingly. I worry that you find it necessary to so grossly and dishonestly overstate your case. Is your case so weak?

In fact, she spoke of animals in patently untrue ways: “These creatures are innocent of any harm to man. Indeed, by their very existence they and their fellows make his life more pleasant.”

She did not write that about bedbugs. That’s a false claim.**

I guess she never heard of the Black Death.

I guess you never heard of accuracy. On page 266 of Silent Spring Carson directly addressed plague in a list of insect- and arthropod-borne diseases:

“The list of diseases and their insect carriers, or vectors, includes typhus and body lice, plague and rat fleas, African sleeping sickness and tsetse flies, various fevers and ticks, and innumerable others.

These are important problems and must be met. No responsible person contends that insect-borne disease should be ignored. The question that has now urgently presented itself is whether it is either wise or responsible to attack the problem by methods that are making it worse.

Carson describes abuse of pesticides — such as DDT on bedbugs — that actually makes the insects stronger and tougher to get rid of. That appears to be your stand, now, to do whatever Carson said not to do, in order to poke a thumb in her eye, even if it means making bedbugs worse.

[Tucker continued:] In short, she seemed to suggest that bedbugs — among all the millions of other killer insects in the world — enjoy some kind of right to life. It was a theory that could be embraced only in a world without malaria and bedbugs. But embraced it was.

That’s total fiction. What you write is completely divorced from fact.

By 1972, DDT was banned. And not only DDT. The whole enterprise of coming up with better and better ways to further human life and protect its flourishing was hobbled.

By 1960, DDT had ceased to work against bedbugs — this was one of the things that worried Carson*** and would worry any responsible person [see Bug Girl's blog]. In her book, Carson warned that indiscriminate use and abuse of DDT would render it useless to fight disease and other insects and pests. By 1965, super mosquito-fighter Fred Soper and the World Health Organization had to stop their campaign to eradicate malaria when they discovered that abuse of DDT in agriculture and other uses had bred malaria-carrying mosquitoes in central and Subsaharan Africa that were resistant and immune to DDT. Keep in mind that the U.S. ban on DDT applied only in the U.S., and only one other nation in the world had a similar ban. DDT has never been banned in Africa, nor Asia.

Carson sounded the warning in 1962. By 1972, when the U.S. banned use of DDT on agricultural crops (and only on crops), it was too late to preserve DDT as a key tool to wipe out malaria.

Was the pesticide industry “hobbled?” Not at all. EPA’s order on DDT explicitly left manufacturing in the U.S. available for export — keeping profits with the pesticide companies, and multiplying the stocks of DDT available to fight disease anywhere in the world that anyone wanted to use it.

The fact is that DDT was a fortunate find, a bit of a miracle substance, and we overused it, thereby cutting short by decades its career as a human life-saver. That was exactly what Carson feared, that human lives would be lost and made miserable, unnecessarily and prematurely, by unthinking use of chemical substances. Pesticide manufacturers have been unable to come up with a second DDT, but not because regulation prevents it. Carson understood that.

There is no shortage of science-ignorant, and science-abusive websites that claim Rachel Carson erred. But 50 years out, the judgment of the President’s Science Advisory Council on her book remains valid: It’s accurate, and correct, and we need to pay attention to what she wrote. Not a jot nor tittle of what Carson wrote in 1962 has proven to be in error. Quite the contrary, as Discover Magazine noted in 2007, thousands of peer-reviewed studies reinforce the science she cited then.

Malaria deaths today are at the lowest level in human history, largely without DDT, and much due to malaria fighters having adopted the methods of fighting the disease that Carson advocated in 1962. Unfortunately, those methods were not adopted for nearly 40 years. Still, the reductions in malaria are remarkable. At peak DDT use in 1959 and 1960, a half-billion people in the world got malaria every year, one-sixth of the world’s people. 4 million died from the disease. In 2009, about 250 million people got malaria — a reduction of 50% in infections — and fewer than 800,000 people died — a dramatic reduction of more than 75% in death toll. This is all the more remarkable when we realize that world population more than doubled in the interim, and at least a billion more people now live in malaria-endemic areas. Much or most of that progress has been without DDT, of necessity — every mosquito on Earth today now carries the alleles of resistance and immunity to DDT.

You impugn a great scientist and wonderful writer on false grounds, and to damaging effect. I hope you’re not so careless in other research.

Rachel Carson was right. The re-emergence of bedbugs, 50 years after she wrote, is not due to anything Carson said, but is instead due to people who petulantly refused to listen to her careful and hard citations to science, and exhortations to stick to what we know to be true to protect human health and the quality of life.

_____________

* Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge, by Lisa H. Sideris, Kathleen Dean Moore, citing another of Carson’s writings, a critique of a collection of Aldo Leopold’s essays on hunting, Round River.

**  Here is the full quote, from pages 99-100 of Silent Spring, highlights added here:

Incidents like the eastern Illinois spraying raise a question that is not only scientific but moral. The question is whether any civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized. These insecticides are not selective poisons; they do not single out the one species of which we desire to be rid. Each of them is used for the simple reason that it is a deadly poison. It therefore poisons all life with which it comes in contact: the cat beloved of some family, the farmer’s cattle, the rabbit in the field, and the horned lark out of the sky. These creatures are innocent of any harm to man. Indeed, by their very existence they and their fellows make his life more pleasant. Yet he rewards them with a death that is not only sudden but horrible. Scientific observers at Sheldon described the symptoms of a meadowlark found near death: ‘Although it lacked muscular coordination and could not fly or stand, it continued to beat its wings and clutch with its toes while lying on its side. Its beak was held open and breathing was labored.’ Even more pitiful was the mute testimony of the dead ground squirrels, which ‘exhibited a characteristic attitude in death. The back was bowed, and the forelegs with the toes of the feet tightly clenched were drawn close to the thorax…The head and neck were outstretched and the mouth often contained dirt, suggesting that the dying animal had been biting at the ground.’

***  See page 273 of Silent Spring.

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Why you should be concerned about mercury pollution

December 28, 2011

Mercury poisoning marches through our culture with a 400-year-old trail, at least.  “Mad as a hatter” refers to the nerve damage hatmakers in Europe demonstrated, nerve damage we now know came from mercury poisoning.

In the 20th century annals of pollution control, the Minimata disaster stands as a monument to unintended grotesque consequences of pollution, of mercury poisoning.

A key Japanese documentary on the disaster is now available from Zakka Films on DVD, with English subtitles.

Anyone who scoffs at EPA’s four-decades of work to reduce mercury pollution should watch this film before bellyaching about damage to industry if we don’t allow industry to kill babies and kittens in blind, immoral pursuit of profit at public expense.

American Elephants, for example, is both shameless and reckless  in concocting lies about mercury pollution regulation (that site will not allow comments that do not sing in harmony with the pro-pollution campaign (I’d love for someone to prove me wrong)).  Almost every claim made at that post is false.  Mercury is not harmless; mercury from broken CFL bulbs cannot begin to compare to mercury in fish and other animals; mercury pollution is not minuscule (mercury warnings stand in all 48 contiguous states, warning against consumption of certain fish).  President Obama has never urged anything but support for the coal-fired power industry — although he has expressed concerns about pollution, as any sane human would.

Republicans have lost their moral compass, and that loss is demonstrated in the unholy campaign for pollution, the campaign against reducing mercury emissions.  It’s tragic.  Action will be required in November to stop the tragedy from spreading.  Will Americans respond as they should at the ballot boxes?

Can you watch “Minimata:  The Victims and Their World,” and not urge stronger controls on mercury emissions?  Can you support the murder of children and workers, for profit?


Fighting malaria with indoor use of insecticides, with USAID money

September 18, 2011

Short video demonstrating the Indoor Residual Spraying program in Mali, financed by funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  Note there is no ban on DDT, note that fighting malaria, even with poisons for mosquitoes, requires more than just spraying poison.

The video is in French.

539 views, September 18, 2011

President’s Malaria Initiative: Plans for FY 2011

December 14, 2010

Barack Obama continued George W. Bush’s Africa-oriented fight against malaria.  The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI)continues to target malaria for control and, if possible, eradication.

PMI announced today plans for work in 2011, country by country:

Malaria Operational Plans for Fiscal Year 2011

These Malaria Operational Plans have been endorsed by the U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator and reflect collaborative discussions with the national malaria control programs and partners in country. If any further changes are made to these plans, it will be reflected in revised postings.

How long before some wag complains that Obama’s program is anti-Africa because it doesn’t propose enough poisoning of the place?  “Not enough DDT!” they will complain, I wager.  And, for the record, I make this prediction not having read any of the country operational plans — in nearly complete ignorance of what the plans actually propose.  Can you find “enough” DDT in any country’s plan?

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Mandy Moore Talks Mosquito Nets – ABC News

December 13, 2010

Don’t ask me what work she’s done, because I couldn’t tell you.  I can tell — based on the headlines of the clipping services — that Mandy Moore is popular.

Ironically, in her brief tour of Africa and — shall we label it? — probably-shallow understanding of the issues, Ms. Moore has a deeper understanding of malaria and how to fight it than the most erudite of the DDT denialists, like Michael Crichton, or Rutledge Taylor.  Innocence wins.

For ABC News, the actress talked about charity work in Africa:

Mandy Moore Talks Mosquito Nets – ABC News, posted with vodpod

It’s a case of a celebrity doing “Do a Good Deed” duty, most likely.  In the video, Mandy Moore puts DDT denialists to shame.  In writing?  Moore doesn’t come off as well.  (Did she write that piece herself?  Maybe she should write what she talks.)


Do bednets make a difference?

September 4, 2010

Go see these two Associated Press photos from Pakistan, at MSNBC’s site — same location, same day.


DDT and birth defects: South African television asks questions

July 23, 2010

Steven Milloy, Roger Bate, and Richard Tren hope you never see this television production — they hope you never even hear about it.  It’s one more indication that Rachel Carson was right.

They hope you never even hear about it.  It’s set for telecast in South Africa next Tuesday:

Special Assignment to broadcast episode on ‘Collateral Damage’

Published: 22 July 2010

This week, Special Assignment looks at those affected by the dangerous DDT chemical and also those who say it is a necessary evil to prevent many South Africans from dying.

“I have problems with my balls,” says ‘George’. “I was born without testicles,” adds ‘Joseph’, yet another man born in the Limpopo area. These two and many other young men in Venda share a common story.

Each year, South Africa sprays more than 90 tonnes of the toxic DDT chemical in homesteads in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo areas. Though DDT, a persistent organic chemical which can remain in the environment for as much as 40 years is banned across the world, South Africa still uses it to control malaria in the country. Recent studies have however showed that DDT is harmful to humans with hundreds of kids born in the Venda area showing signs of genital deformities. The chemical has also been associated with breast cancer; diabetes; and spontaneous abortion. Yet it remains South Africa’s best option for the prevention of malaria which kills millions of people each year across Africa. This week, Special Assignment looks at those affected by this chemical and also those who say it is a necessary evil to prevent many other South Africans from dying.

‘Collateral Damage’ will be broadcast on Special Assignment on Tuesday, 27 July, at 20:31 on SABC3.


University of Arizona’s “malaria-proof” mosquito

July 15, 2010

This could be good news:  A genetically-altered mosquito that doesn’t harbor the malaria parasite, and so cannot pass it along to humans it bites in its later life.

One more way to end the use and production of DDT.

Press release from the University of Arizona (one of my alma mater schools):

The first malaria-proof mosquito

Scientists at the University of Arizona have achieved a breakthrough in the fight against malaria: a mosquito that can no longer give the disease to humans

IMAGE: Michael Riehle, holding genetically altered mosquitoes, and his team work in a highly secure lab environment to prevent genetically altered mosquitoes from escaping.

Click here for more information.

For years, researchers worldwide have attempted to create genetically altered mosquitoes that cannot infect humans with malaria. Those efforts fell short because the mosquitoes still were capable of transmitting the disease-causing pathogen, only in lower numbers.

Now for the first time, University of Arizona entomologists have succeeded in genetically altering mosquitoes in a way that renders them completely immune to the parasite, a single-celled organism called Plasmodium. Someday researchers hope to replace wild mosquitoes with lab-bred populations unable to act as vectors, i.e. transmit the malaria-causing parasite.

“If you want to effectively stop the spreading of the malaria parasite, you need mosquitoes that are no less than 100 percent resistant to it. If a single parasite slips through and infects a human, the whole approach will be doomed to fail,” said Michael Riehle, who led the research effort, the results of which will be published July 15 in the journal Public Library of Science Pathogens. Riehle is a professor of entomology in the UA’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and is a member of the BIO5 Institute.

Riehle’s team used molecular biology techniques to design a piece of genetic information capable of inserting itself into a mosquito’s genome. This construct was then injected into the eggs of the mosquitoes. The emerging generation carries the altered genetic information and passes it on to future generations. For their experiments, the scientists used Anopheles stephensi, a mosquito species that is an important malaria vector throughout the Indian subcontinent.

The researchers targeted one of the many biochemical pathways inside the mosquito’s cells. Specifically, they engineered a piece of genetic code acting as a molecular switch in the complex control of metabolic functions inside the cell. The genetic construct acts like a switch that is always set to “on,” leading to the permanent activity of a signaling enzyme called Akt. Akt functions as a messenger molecule in several metabolic functions, including larval development, immune response and lifespan.

When Riehle and his co-workers studied the genetically modified mosquitoes after feeding them malaria-infested blood, they noticed that the Plasmodium parasites did not infect a single study animal.

IMAGE: Under UV light, this mosquito larva reveals a red fluorescent marker in its nervous system, causing eyes and nerves to glow. The marker’s presence tells the researchers in Riehle’s…

Click here for more information.

“We were surprised how well this works,” said Riehle. “We were just hoping to see some effect on the mosquitoes’ growth rate, lifespan or their susceptibility to the parasite, but it was great to see that our construct blocked the infection process completely.”

Of the estimated 250 million people who contract malaria each year, 1 million – mostly children – do not survive. Ninety percent of the number of fatalities, which Riehle suspects to be underreported, occur in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Each new malaria case starts with a bite from a vector – a mosquito belonging to the genus Anopheles. About 25 species of Anopheles are significant vectors of the disease.

Only the female Anopheles mosquitoes feed on blood, which they need to produce eggs. When they bite an infected human or animal, they ingest the malaria parasite.

Once the Plasmodium cells find themselves in the insect’s midgut, they spring into action. They leave the insect’s digestive tract by squeezing through the midgut lining. The vast majority of Plasmodium cells do not survive this journey and are eliminated by the mosquito’s immune cells. A tiny fraction of parasite cells, usually not more than a handful, make it and attach themselves on the outside of the midgut wall where they develop into brooding cells called oocysts.

Within 10-12 days, thousands of new Plasmodium cells, so-called sporozoites, sprout inside the oocyst. After hatching from the oocyst, the sporozoites make their way into the insect’s salivary glands where they lie in wait until the mosquito finds a victim for a blood meal. When the mosquito bites, some sporozoites are flushed into the victim’s bloodstream.

“The average mosquito transmits about 40 sporozoites when it bites,” said Riehle, “but it takes only one to infect a human and make a new malaria victim.”

Several species of Plasmodium exist in different parts of the world, all of which are microscopically small single-celled organisms that live in their hosts’ red blood cells. Each time the parasites undergo a round of multiplication, their host cells burst and release the progeny into the bloodstream, causing the painful bouts of fever that malaria is known and feared for.

Malaria killed more soldiers in the Civil War than the fighting, according to Riehle. In fact, malaria was prevalent in most parts of the U.S. until the late 1940s and early 1950, when DDT spraying campaigns wiped the vectors off the map. Today, a new case of malaria occurs in the U.S. only on rare occasions.

The severity of the disease depends very largely on the species of the Plasmodium parasite the patient happens to contract.

“Only two species of Plasmodium cause the dreaded relapses of the disease,” said Riehle. “One of them, Plasmodium vivax, can lie dormant in the liver for 10 to 15 years, but now drugs have become available that target the parasites in the liver as well as those in the blood cells.”

That said, there are no effective or approved malaria vaccines. A few vaccine candidates have gone to clinical trials but they were shown to either be ineffective or provide only short-term protection. If an effective vaccine were to be developed, distribution would be a major problem, Riehle said.

Researchers and health officials put higher hopes into eradication programs, which aim at the disease-transmitting mosquitoes rather than the pathogens that cause it.

“The question is ‘What can we do to turn a good vector into a bad vector?’” Riehle said.

“The eradication scenario requires three things: A gene that disrupts the development of the parasite inside the mosquito, a genetic technique to bring that gene into the mosquito genome and a mechanism that gives the modified mosquito an edge over the natural populations so they can displace them over time.”

“The third requirement is going to be the most difficult of the three to realize,” he added, which is why his team decided to tackle the other two first.

“It was known that the Akt enzyme is involved in the mosquito’s growth rate and immune response, among other things,” Riehle said. “So we went ahead with this genetic construct to see if we can ramp up Akt function and help the insects’ immune system fight off the malaria parasite.”

The second rationale behind this approach was to use Akt signaling to stunt the mosquitoes’ growth and cut down on its lifespan.

“In the wild, a mosquito lives for an average of two weeks,” Riehle explained. “Only the oldest mosquitoes are able to transmit the parasite. If we can reduce the lifespan of the mosquitoes, we can reduce the number of infections.”

His research team discovered that mosquitoes carrying two copies of the altered gene had lost their ability to act as malaria vectors altogether.

“In that group of mosquitoes, not a single Plasmodium oocyst managed to form.”

At this point, the modified mosquitoes exist in a highly secured lab environment with no chance of escape. Once researchers find a way to replace wild mosquito populations with lab-bred ones, breakthroughs like the one achieved by Riehle’s group could pave the way toward a world in which malaria is all but history.

###

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Reference: Corby-Harris et al. Activation of Akt Signaling Reduces the Prevalence and Intensity of Malaria Parasite Infection and Lifespan in Anopheles stephensi Mosquitoes. Public Library of Science (PLoS) Pathogens, July 2010 issue: www.plospathogens.org

How do you like them genetic engineering guys now?


Malaria tough to beat: Canadian Press review of The Fever

July 5, 2010

At Canadian Press, Carl Hartman reviewed The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years, a dramatic work of non-fiction about malaria and mosquitoes by Sonia Shah (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2010).  Hartman concluded:

Evidence of mosquito resistance to the drug has been recently reported.

Shah is skeptical of a surge of private charity that emphasizes the use of mosquito nets following the decline of government-led anti-malaria programs in the 1990s. Acknowledging the contributions of Bill Gates and former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, she lists Veto the ‘Squito, a youth-led charity; Nothing but Nets, an anti-malarial basketball charity; and World Swim Against Malaria. She quotes The New York Times as decrying “hip ways to show you care.”

Her own comment: “Just because something is simple doesn’t necessarily mean that people will do it.”

“(T)he schools, roads, clinics, secure housing and good governance that enable regular prevention and prompt treatment must be built,” she concludes. “Otherwise the cycle of depression and resurgence will begin anew; malaria will win, as it always has.”

Anti-environmentalists, anti-scientists, and other conservatives won’t like the book:  It says we can’t beat malaria cheaply by just spreading a lot of poison on Africa and Africans.

Especially if you’re doing the noble thing and vacationing in the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama, or Mississippi, or Louisiana, you may want to read this.  If you’re vacationing in the Hamptons, Martha’s Vinyard, or Cannes, buy several copies to pass out at dinner with your friends.

More:


Annals of DDT: Malawi ponders DDT use against malaria

June 21, 2010

Here’s a news story that Richard Tren and Donald North hope neither you nor anyone else will read.  It says that Malawi is pondering whether to use DDT for Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) to fight malaria this season — and it lists several other nations that use DDT in exactly that way.

Why do the Chronically Obsessed With Rachel Carson (COWRC) like Tren and North hope you won’t see it?

It says DDT is being used broadly against malaria, in several nations on two continents.  That directly contradicts one of their favorite claims, that environmentalists (always unnamed) prevent the use of DDT anywhere.  It also shows clearly that DDT is not banned in Africa, another claim they like to blame on unnamed environmentalists and “left” do-gooders.

Facts of the malaria fight are that the consensus among serious malaria-warriors favors the integrated pest management schemes Rachel Carson wrote would be the savior of pesticides, in 1962 (in international circles, it’s called integrated vector management, “vectors” being the carriers of disease).  Quite to the contrary of Rachel Carson’s being the cause of needless deaths to malaria, her methods are saving lives.  The death toll from malaria is lower now than it was when DDT was used more broadly, and used outdoors.

Malawi going for DDT to fight malaria

Nyasa Times, June 20, 2010

Malawi is contemplating to start using DDT, an organochlorine pesticide, as a precaution in the fight against malaria in the country.

Chris Kang'ombe, Malawi Secretary for Health - Nyasa Times

Chris Kang'ombe, Malawi Secretary for Health - Nyasa Times

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health Chris Kang’ombe (pictured) said in Lilongwe during the launch of this year’s anti-malaria campaign themed, “Malungo zii (Kick out malaria)”.

“We know that our friends from Zambia and other countries are using it as an indoor residual spraying and it is working, so we are looking into it if we can do the same,” said Kang’ombe.

According to 2004-2009 statistical data provided by the UN, World Bank, WHO and UNAIDS, there were 4,204,468 reported malaria cases, 12,950 estimated malaria deaths and 7,132 reported malaria deaths in Malawi.

“We sent a team to Zambia to do a research on the use of DDT in fighting malaria and once the recommendations are made we will see what to do. We know that they are successful but we have to look at what effects DDT has on environment and agriculture taking into consideration that our economy is agro-based,” he said.

Some commentators and activists have raised concerns about DDT contaminating the environment if it is used in vector control. As with the other insecticides used in IRS, DDT causes minimal or zero contamination of the wider environment. Because DDT does not escape into the wider environment, it poses little or no threat to wildlife.

Results from the 2008 MIS demonstrated the dramatic progress Zambia is making in its fight to control malaria. Since 2006, malaria parasite prevalence in children has been reduced by 50%, and moderate to severe anemia has been reduced by more than 60%.

DDT is not only highly effective in malaria control, but it is also significantly cheaper than the other insecticides that are suitable for indoor residual spraying (IRS). It is easy to use and safe for both the residents of houses sprayed and the sprayers themselves.

More people than ever are sleeping under bed nets and two-thirds of all households are protected by at least one ITN or indoor residual spraying.

Use of DDT to fight malaria has been increasing since it was endorsed in 2006 by the World Health Organization and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), a U.S. aid program launched by former President Bush.

USAID provides approximately $26 million per year to Malawi under PMI to purchase and distribute about 1,600,000 long life insecticide-treated bed nets, according to its Malawi office fact sheet.

“It is also used to purchase and distribute a national supply of over 6.6 million doses of life saving artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) drugs, implement an Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) programme for 28,000 households and provide preventive treatment for malaria nationwide for pregnant women attending antenatal care,” reads part of the report.

PMI activities began in Malawi in 2007 and the U.S. government has committed a total of $107 million for addressing malaria over the five year period of 2007-2012.

“With six million cases of malaria per year in Malawi, the fight against malaria is far from over but through close collaborations between the governments of the United States and Malawi and other partners, we are making progress,” said Curt Reintsma, USAID Mission Director.

In 2009, data showed that use of ITNs by vulnerable children improved to 61% from 37% in 2005.

“We rededicate our partnership between Malawi and the United States to defeat this preventable and treatable killer,” said Reintsma.

Kang’ombe said the ministry has been implementing several malaria control strategies aimed at reducing the burden of malaria to a level of no public health significance in Malawi. These strategic areas which are coordinated by the NMCP includes; Malaria Case Management, Intermittent Preventive Treatment for pregnant women (IPTp) where women are routinely provided with at least 2 doses of SP during pregnancy.

“Integrated Vector Management is another major strategy that the ministry of health is implementing as one of the control measures for malaria in Malawi. This involves distribution of Insecticide Treated Mosquito nets and Indoor Residual Spraying. Operational Research, Monitoring and Evaluation and Information, Education and Communication/Advocacy are some of the cross cutting strategic areas that are also being implemented,” said Kang’ombe adding.

Some nations which are using DDT are: Ethiopia, South Africa, India, Mauritius, Myanmar, Yemen, Uganda, Mozambique and Swaziland, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Eritrea, Gambia, Namibia and Zambia.

DDT may have a variety of human health effects, including reduced fertility, genital birth defects, breast cancer, diabetes and damage to developing brains. Its metabolite, DDE and can block male hormones.

See also:


French researchers find link between DDT exposure and Parkinson’s Disease

June 16, 2010

French researchers looked at men who possess a gene that predisposes them to Parkinson’s Disease, and found that DDT exposure correlates with actual onset of the disease.

(Reuters) – Men with certain genetic variations who were exposed to some toxic pesticides which are now largely banned run an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, French scientists said Monday.

Researchers found that among men exposed to pesticides such as DDT, carriers of the gene variants were three and a half times more likely to develop Parkinson’s than those with the normal version of the gene.

The scientists, whose work was published in the Archives of Neurology journal, think the brains of people with the gene variant fail to flush out toxins as efficiently as those with normal versions of the gene, suggesting environmental as well as genetic factors are important in the risk of Parkinson’s.

DDT, which belongs to a group of pesticides known as organochlorines, is one of the “Dirty Dozen” chemicals banned by a 2001 United Nations convention after it was found to be a toxin that can suppress the immune system.

It is infamous for threatening bird populations by thinning eggshells, and has also been linked to increase risks in humans of diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s — an incurable and often deadly brain disease.

But exemptions to the DDT ban are allowed in many developing nations because it so effective in killing mosquitoes. DDT’s Swiss inventor Paul Hermann Muller won the 1948 Nobel Prize for Medicine — before its wider toxic effects were known.

Alexis Elbaz and Fabien Dutheil, of France’s National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) studied 101 men with Parkinson’s and 234 without the disease to look at links between organochlorine exposure and Parkinson’s disease.

The study included only men, and all of them had had high levels of exposure to pesticides through their work as farmers.

The scientists found the link was around 3.5 times stronger in men who carried two copies of a gene known as ABCB1, which plays a role in helping the brain flush out dangerous chemicals.

File that one away for the next time some yahoo claims there are no harmful effects to health from DDT.  The study probably could not distinguish between heavy exposure to pesticides and the much lighter exposure assumed to result from Indoor Residual Spraying of DDT, such as is used in some places in Africa in the fight against malaria.

Anybody got a copy of the actual study, in English?


Washington Times felled by DDT poisoning

June 9, 2010

Washington Times‘ owner, the Unification Church, put the paper up for sale earlier this year — tired of losing north of $30 million a year on the thing.  It appears that, in a cost-cutting move, the paper has laid off all its fact checkers and most of its editors.

And anyone with a brain.

How do we know?

Our old friend Stephen Milloy complains about Time Magazine’s “50 Worst Inventions” list, including, especially the listing of DDT, as discussed earlier.  It’s wrong, and silly.  Good fact checkers, and good editors, wouldn’t let such claptrap make it into print.

Milloy packed an astounding number of whoppers in a short paragraph about DDT:

From 1943 through its banning by the EPA in 1972, DDT saved hundreds of millions of lives all over the world from a variety of vector-borne diseases. Even when Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (and closeted environmental activist) William D. Ruckelshaus banned DDT in 1972, he did so despite a finding from an EPA administrative law judge who, after seven months and 9,000 pages of testimony, ruled that DDT presented no threat of harm to humans or wildlife. Today, a million children die every year from malaria. DDT could safely make a tremendous dent in that toll.

Let us count the errors and falsehoods:

1.  DDT was used against typhus from 1943 through about 1946, and against bedbugs; it saved millions, but not hundreds of millions. Death tolls from typhus rarely rose over a million a year, if it ever did.  Bedbugs don’t kill, they just itch.  If we add in malaria after 1946, in a few years we push to four million deaths total from insect-borne diseases — but of course, that’s with DDT being used.  If we charitably claim DDT saved four million lives a year between 1943 and 1972, we get a total of 117 million lives saved.  But we know that figure is inflated a lot.

Sure, DDT helped stop some disease epidemics.  But it didn’t save “hundreds of millions of lives” in 29 years of use.  The National Academy of Sciences, in a book noting that DDT should be banned because its dangers far outweigh its long-term benefits, goofed and said DDT had saved 500 million lives from malaria, and said DDT is one of the most beneficial chemicals ever devised by humans.  500 million is the annual infection rate from malaria, with a high of nearly four million deaths, but in most years under a million deaths.  Malaria kills about one of every 500 people infected in a year.  That’s far too many deaths, but it’s not as many lives saved as Milloy claims.

NAS grossly overstated the benefits of DDT, and still called for it to be banned.

The question is, why is Milloy grossly inflating his figures?  Isn’t it good enough for DDT to be recognized as one of the most beneficial substances ever devised?

My father always warned that when advertisers start inflating their claims, they are trying to hide something nasty.

2.  Ruckelshaus didn’t ban DDT on his own — nor was he a “closeted” environmentalist. He got the job at EPA because he was an outstanding lawyer and administrator, with deep understanding of environmental issues — his environmentalism was one of his chief qualifications for the job.  (Maybe Milloy spent the ’70s in a closet, and assumes everyone else did, too?)  But EPA acted only when ordered to act by two different federal courts (Judge David Bazelon ordered an end to all use of DDT at one of the trials).  At trial, DDT had been found to be inherently dangerous and uncontrollable.  Both courts were ready to order DDT banned completely, but stayed those orders pending EPA’s regulatory hearings and action.

In fact, regulatory actions against DDT began in the 1950s; by 1970, scientific evidence was overwhelming (and it has not be contradicted:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal agency with responsibility of regulating pesticides before the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, began regulatory actions in the late 1950s and 1960s to prohibit many of DDT’s uses because of mounting evidence of the pesticide’s declining benefits and environmental and toxicological effects. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962 stimulated widespread public concern over the dangers of improper pesticide use and the need for better pesticide controls.

In 1972, EPA issued a cancellation order for DDT based on adverse environmental effects of its use, such as those to wildlife, as well as DDT’s potential human health risks. Since then, studies have continued, and a causal relationship between DDT exposure and reproductive effects is suspected. Today, DDT is classified as a probable human carcinogen by U.S. and international authorities. This classification is based on animal studies in which some animals developed liver tumors.

DDT is known to be very persistent in the environment, will accumulate in fatty tissues, and can travel long distances in the upper atmosphere. Since the use of DDT was discontinued in the United States, its concentration in the environment and animals has decreased, but because of its persistence, residues of concern from historical use still remain.

3.  Judge Sweeney ruled that DDT is dangerous to humans and especially wildlife, but that DDT’s new, Rachel-Carson-friendly label would probably protect human health and the environment. EPA Administrative Law Judge Edmund Sweeney presided at the hearings in 1971.  As in the two previous federal court trials, DDT advocates had ample opportunity to make their case.  32 companies and agencies defended the use of DDT in the proceeding.  Just prior to the hearings, DDT manufacturers announced plans to relabel DDT for use only in small amounts, against disease, or in emergencies, and not in broadcast spraying ever.  This proved significant later.

Judge Sweeney did not find that DDT is harmless.  Quite to the contrary, Sweeney wrote in the findings of the hearing:

20.  DDT can have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish and estuarine organisms when directly applied to the water.

21.  DDT is used as a rodenticide. [DDT was used to kill bats in homes and office buildings; this was so effective that, coupled with accidental dosing of bats from their eating insects carrying DDT,  it actually threatened to wipe out some species of bat in the southwest U.S.]

22.  DDT can have an adverse effect on beneficial animals.

23.  DDT is concentrated in organisms and can be transferred through food chains.

DDT use in the U.S. had dropped from a 1959 high of 79 million pounds, to just 12 million pounds by 1972.  Hazards from DDT use prompted federal agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior to severely restrict or stop use of the stuff prior to 1963.  Seeing the writing on the wall, manufacturers tried to keep DDT on the market by labeling it very restrictively.  That would allow people to buy it legally,  and then use it illegally, but such misuse can almost never be prosecuted.

Sweeney wrote that, under the new, very restrictive label, DDT could be kept on the market.  Ruckelshaus ruled that EPA had a duty to protect the environment even from abusive, off-label use, and issued a ban on all agricultural use.

4.  More DDT today won’t significantly reduce malaria’s death toll. Milloy fails to mention that DDT use against malaria was slowed dramatically in the mid-1960s — seven years before the U.S. banned spraying cotton with it — because mosquitoes had become resistant and immune to DDT.  DDT use was not stopped because of the U.S. ban on spraying crops; DDT use was reduced because it didn’t work.

Milloy also ignores the fact that DDT is being used today.  Not all populations of mosquitoes developed immunity, yet.  DDT has a place in a carefully-managed program of “integrated vector management,” involving rotating several pesticides to ensure mosquitoes don’t evolve immunity, and spraying small amounts of the pesticide on the walls of houses where it is most effective, and ensuring that DDT especially does not get outdoors.

To the extent DDT can be used effectively, it is being used.  More DDT can only cause environmental harm, and perhaps harm to human health.

Most significantly, Milloy grossly overstates the effectiveness of DDT.  Deaths from malaria numbered nearly 3 million a year in the late 1950s; by the middle 1960s, the death rate hovered near 2 million per year.  Today, annual death rates are under a million — less than half the death rate when DDT use was at its peak.  Were DDT the panacea Milloy claims, shouldn’t the death numbers go the other way?

Milloy gets away making wild, misleading and inaccurate claims when editors don’t bother to read his stuff, and they don’t bother to ask “does this make sense?”  Nothing Milloy claims could be confirmed with a search of PubMed, the most easily accessible, authoritative data base of serious science journals dealing with health.

Obviously, Washington Times didn’t bother to check.  Were all the fact checkers let go?

Even more lunatic

Milloy also attacked the decision to get lead out of gasoline.  Ignoring all the facts and the astoundingly long history of severe health effects from lead pollution, Milloy dropped this stinking mental turd:

As to leaded gasoline, we can safely say that leaded gasoline helped provide America and the world with unprecedented freedom and fueled tremendous prosperity. We don’t use leaded gasoline in the United States anymore, but more because people simply don’t like the idea of leaded gasoline as opposed to any body of science showing that it caused anybody any harm. It’s the dose that makes the poison, and there never was enough lead in the ambient environment to threaten health.

The U.S. found that getting lead out of gasoline actually improved our national IQ.  Lead’s health effects were so pervasive, there was an almost-immediate improvement in health for the entire nation, especially children, when lead was removed.  Denying the harms of tetraethyl lead in gasoline goes past junk science, to outright falsehood.

What is Milloy’s fascination with presenting deadly poisons as “harmless?”  Why does he hate children so?

Why do publications not catch these hallucination-like errors and junk science promotions when he writes them?

Antidote to DDT poisoning in humans:  Spread the facts:

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