No, Rachel Carson didn’t cause an increase in malaria; bonus film to WGBH American Experience “Rachel Carson”

February 7, 2017

Rachel Carson at a microscope, American Experience/RetroReport image. Did Carson's work cause an increase in malaria? Is she to blame for continued malaria deaths? No, answers a short film bonus to "Rachel Carson," the 2017 PBS film.

Rachel Carson at a microscope, American Experience/RetroReport image. Did Carson’s work cause an increase in malaria? Is she to blame for continued malaria deaths? No, answers a short film bonus to “Rachel Carson,” the 2017 PBS film.

A straight up, historic look at the question of Rachel Carson’s fault in stopping malaria.

Anti-environmentalists and corporate hoaxsters argue that Rachel Carson should be blamed for an imaginary increase in malaria deaths, after the U.S. banned DDT use on crops.

In conjunction with WGBH’s American Experience film on Carson released early in 2017, this short film focusing on malaria as a continuing plague puts to rest the idea that Carson should be blamed at all.

Soaking in the bathtub, we find the film not strident enough in defense of Carson; but for those strident nuts who claim Carson a murderer, it may have some good effect. And of course, you, intelligent dear reader, will be persuaded more gently.

Where malaria is the question, DDT is not the answer. Where malaria still exists, it’s not Rachel Carson’s fault.

More:


Fact sheet for World Malaria Report 2016

December 16, 2016

A woman shows the mosquito net that protects her and her family from malaria transmission, in India. India remains the world's top DDT user, but is switching to nets in an effort to bring malaria rates down and set up malaria eradication before the end of DDT in 2020. WHO image.

A woman shows the mosquito net that protects her and her family from malaria transmission, in India. India remains the world’s top DDT user, but is switching to nets in an effort to bring malaria rates down and set up malaria eradication before the end of DDT in 2020. WHO image.

World Health Organization publishes an annual World Malaria Report, with the year appended to the title. It summarizes the state of the fight against malaria worldwide, recording progress and setbacks.

In the tally of progress we get a clear indication of what is needed to continue or increase that progress, with the ultimate goal of controlling malaria to the point it poses no great economic risk, or health risk, to any nation, or better that human malaria is eradicated.

World Malaria Report 2016 is 184 pages, shorter than some previous reports but packed with figures and history, some of which requires greater background to understand completely.

For example, the 2016 publication notes that about 412,000 people died from malaria in 2016. This is a shocking figure. Most of the news coverage of the report mentions this death toll in the first paragraph.

It’s too many deaths. But it’s a more than 50% reduction in deaths from 1990s rates, and it’s a more than 90% reduction from the annual death tolls that shocked the world to concerted action after World War II. Most estimates are that about 5 million people a year died from malaria through the 1950s, and into the 1960s.

WHO concentrates on the malaria fight, and plays down the political aspects to encourage international cooperation to help fight the disease. But there are political statements made, if one has the background to understand them. There remains controversy over the use of DDT, with many people yelling far and wide that if ‘bans on DDT were removed’ then malaria would quickly become an eradicated disease. This position ignores the facts, that there were still 5 million people dying each year during peak DDT use; that death tolls plunged after the U.S. banned DDT use on crops; that the U.S. ban covered only crop use, and that DDT use against disease has never been banned anywhere in the world; and that DDT use continued long after the U.S. banned DDT, around the world. DDT use never stopped.

Taken together, we would understand that the 90% reduction in malaria deaths from peak DDT use years, was accomplished mostly without DDT, and that therefore DDT is not a panacea.

World Malaria Report 2016 also tallies the slow demise of DDT. Mosquito resistance to pesticides, especially DDT, is a major problem in the fight against the disease. But more DDT can’t fix that problem now that every mosquito on Earth carries alleles that make them resistant and wholly immune to the stuff. DDT will probably never be a panacea, even were its manufacture not scheduled to stop very soon.

History, and a complete assessment of the science and current conditions in the frontlines of the malaria fight, can help us put these things in perspective.

So far, only the Los Angeles Times in the U.S. provided any in-depth reporting on World Malaria Report 2016. We hope other media will take up the challenge to inform. They will find WHO’s Fact Sheet useful.

With that warning in mind, it’s good to look at the broad outlines of the report, which WHO has packaged into a fact sheet for our convenience.

Fact Sheet: World Malaria Report 2016

13 December 2016

The World Malaria Report, published annually by WHO, tracks progress and trends in malaria control and elimination across the globe. It is developed by WHO in collaboration with ministries of health and a broad range of partners. The 2016 report draws on data from 91 countries and areas with ongoing malaria transmission.

Global progress and disease burden (2010–2015)

According to the report, there were 212 million new cases of malaria worldwide in 2015 (range 148–304 million). The WHO African Region accounted for most global cases of malaria (90%), followed by the South-East Asia Region (7%) and the Eastern Mediterranean Region (2%).

In 2015, there were an estimated 429 000 malaria deaths (range 235 000–639 000) worldwide. Most of these deaths occurred in the African Region (92%), followed by the South-East Asia Region (6%) and the Eastern Mediterranean Region (2%).

Between 2010 and 2015, malaria incidence rates (new malaria cases) fell by 21% globally and in the African Region. During this same period, malaria mortality rates fell by an estimated 29% globally and by 31% in the African Region.

Between 2010 and 2015, malaria incidence rates (new malaria cases) fell by 21% globally and in the African Region. During this same period, malaria mortality rates fell by an estimated 29% globally and by 31% in the African Region.

Other regions have achieved impressive reductions in their malaria burden. Since 2010, the malaria mortality rate declined by 58% in the Western Pacific Region, by 46% in the South-East Asia Region, by 37% in the Region of the Americas and by 6% in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. In 2015, the European Region was malaria-free: all 53 countries in the region reported at least 1 year of zero locally-acquired cases of malaria.

Children under 5 are particularly susceptible to malaria illness, infection and death. In 2015, malaria killed an estimated 303 000 under-fives globally, including 292 000 in the African Region. Between 2010 and 2015, the malaria mortality rate among children under 5 fell by an estimated 35%. Nevertheless, malaria remains a major killer of under-fives, claiming the life of 1 child every 2 minutes.

Trends in the scale-up of malaria interventions

Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission. Two forms of vector control are effective in a wide range of circumstances: insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS).

ITNs are the cornerstone of malaria prevention efforts, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the last 5 years, the use of treated nets in the region has increased significantly: in 2015, an estimated 53% of the population at risk slept under a treated net compared to 30% in 2010.

Indoor residual spraying of insecticides (IRS) is used by national malaria programmes in targeted areas. In 2015, 106 million people globally were protected by IRS, including 49 million people in Africa. The proportion of the population at risk of malaria protected by IRS declined from a peak of 5.7% globally in 2010 to 3.1% in 2015.

Diagnostics

WHO recommends diagnostic testing for all people with suspected malaria before treatment is administered. Rapid diagnostic testing (RDTs), introduced widely over the past decade, has made it easier to swiftly distinguish between malarial and non-malarial fevers, enabling timely and appropriate treatment.

New data presented in the report show that, in 2015, approximately half (51%) of children with a fever who sought care at a public health facility in 22 African countries received a malaria diagnostic test compared to 29% in 2010. Sales of RDTs reported by manufacturers rose from 88 million globally in 2010 to 320 million in 2013, but fell to 270 million in 2015.

Treatment

Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are highly effective against P. falciparum, the most prevalent and lethal malaria parasite affecting humans. Globally, the number of ACT treatment courses procured from manufacturers increased from 187 million in 2010 to a peak of 393 million in 2013, but subsequently fell to 311 million in 2015.

Prevention in pregnancy

Malaria infection in pregnancy carries substantial risks for the mother, her fetus and the newborn child. In Africa, the proportion of women who receive intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) for malaria has been increasing over time, but coverage levels remain below national targets.

IPTp is given to pregnant women at scheduled antenatal care visits after the first trimester. It can prevent maternal death, anaemia and low birth weight, a major cause of infant mortality. Between 2010 and 2015, there was a five-fold increase in the delivery of 3 or more doses of IPTp in 20 of the 36 countries that have adopted WHO’s IPTp policy – from 6% coverage in 2010 to 31% coverage in 2015.

Insecticide and drug resistance

In many countries, progress in malaria control is threatened by the rapid development and spread of antimalarial drug resistance. To date, parasite resistance to artemisinin – the core compound of the best available antimalarial medicines – has been detected in 5 countries of the Greater Mekong subregion.

Mosquito resistance to insecticides is another growing concern. Since 2010, 60 of the 73 countries that monitor insecticide resistance have reported mosquito resistance to at least 1 insecticide class used in nets and indoor spraying; of these, 50 reported resistance to 2 or more insecticide classes.

Progress towards global targets

To address remaining challenges, WHO has developed the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 (GTS). The Strategy was adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2015. It provides a technical framework for all endemic countries as they work towards malaria control and elimination.

This Strategy sets ambitious but attainable goals for 2030, with milestones along the way to track progress. The milestones for 2020 include:

  • Reducing malaria case incidence by at least 40%;
  • Reducing malaria mortality rates by at least 40%;
  • Eliminating malaria in at least 10 countries;
  • Preventing a resurgence of malaria in all countries that are malaria-free.

Progress towards the GTS country elimination milestone is on track: In 2015, 10 countries and areas reported fewer than 150 locally-acquired cases of malaria. A further 9 countries reported between 150 and 1000 cases.

However, progress towards other GTS targets must be accelerated. Less than half (40) of the 91 malaria-endemic countries are on track to meet the GTS milestone of a 40% reduction in malaria case incidence by 2020. Progress has been particularly slow in countries with a high malaria burden.

Forty-nine countries are on track to achieve the milestone of a 40% reduction in malaria mortality; this figure includes 10 countries that reported zero malaria deaths in 2015.

Funding trends

In 2015, malaria funding totalled US$ 2.9 billion, representing only 45% of the GTS funding milestone for 2020. Governments of malaria-endemic countries provided 32% of total funding. The United States of America and the United Kingdom are the largest international funders of malaria control and elimination programmes, contributing 35% and 16% of total funding, respectively. If the 2020 targets of the GTS are to be achieved, total funding must increase substantially.

More:

Save

Save


Why we need war on the mosquito, the deadliest animal – Bill Gates

October 16, 2016

World's Deadliest Animals, Gates Foundation

World’s Deadliest Animals, Gates Foundation

One could quibble, and point out that it’s the malaria parasite that does the dirty work, more than the mosquito; but it’s only a quibble.

Short film from Bill Gates explaining why he helps wage war on the lowly mosquito. Use of science to find ways to defeat mosquito-borne disease transmission is especially important in the post-DDT world, since DDT resistance now aids every mosquito on Earth.

GatesNotes said:

There are about a dozen different diseases that are spread to humans by mosquito bites including dengue, yellow fever, Zika, chikungunya, and malaria. This little mosquito actually kills more humans than any other thing.

Learn more at: http://b-gat.es/2cUd9Ff


How USA spends so much money to fight malaria in other nations

January 2, 2016

Fighting malaria is difficult, and complex, and expensive. No magic bullet can slow or stop malaria.

Reasonable people understand the stakes, not only for Africa, where $12 billion is lost every year to malaria illness and death, according to WHO records; but also for all nations who trade with Africa and other malaria endemic nations in the world.

What should we do about malaria?

Before we leap to solutions, let us look to see what the United States is already doing, according to USAID, the agency which has led U.S. malaria-fighting since the 1950s.

USAID explains on their website:

Fighting Malaria

A mother and child sit under the protection of malaria nets

A mother and child sit under the protection of malaria nets. Learn more about PMI’s contributions to the global fight against malaria. Maggie Hallahan Photography

Each year, malaria causes about 214 million cases and an estimated 438,000 deaths worldwide

While malaria mortality rates have dropped by 60 percent over the period 2000–2015, malaria remains a major cause of death among children. Although the disease is preventable and curable, it is estimated that a child dies every minute from malaria. In Asia and the Americas, malaria causes fewer severe illnesses and deaths, but antimalarial drug resistance is a serious and growing problem.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been committed to fighting malaria since the 1950s. Malaria prevention and control remains a major U.S. foreign assistance objective and supports the U.S. Government’s vision of ending preventable child and maternal deaths and ending extreme poverty. USAID works closely with national governments to build their capacity to prevent and treat the disease. USAID also invests in the discovery and development of new antimalarial drugs and malaria vaccines. USAID-supported malaria control activities are based on country-level assessments, and a combination of interventions are implemented to achieve the greatest public health impact – most importantly the reduction of maternal and child mortality. These interventions include:

  • Indoor residual spraying (IRS): IRS is the organized, timely spraying of an insecticide on the inside walls of houses or dwellings. It kills adult mosquitoes before they can transmit malaria parasites to another person.
  • Insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs): An insecticide-treated mosquito net hung over sleeping areas protects those sleeping under it by repelling mosquitoes and killing those that land on it.
  • Intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women (IPTp): Approximately 125 million pregnant women annually are at risk of contracting malaria. IPTp involves the administration of at least two doses of an antimalarial drug to a pregnant woman, which protects her against maternal anemia and reduces the likelihood of low birth weight and perinatal death.
  • Diagnosis and treatment with lifesaving drugs: Effective case management entails diagnostic testing for malaria to ensure that all patients with malaria are properly identified and receive a quality-assured artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT).

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) works in 19 focus countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Greater Mekong Subregion in Asia. PMI is an interagency initiative led by USAID and implemented together with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, PMI launched its next 6-year strategy for 2015–2020, which takes into account the progress over the past decade and the new challenges that have arisen. It is also in line with the goals articulated in the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership’s second generation global malaria action plan, Action and Investment to Defeat Malaria (AIM) 2016–2030: for a Malaria-Free World [PDF, 18.6MB] and The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) updated Global Technical Strategy: 2016–2030 [PDF, 1.0MB]. The U.S. Government’s goal under the PMI Strategy 2015-2020 [PDF, 8.9MB] is to work with PMI-supported countries and partners to further reduce malaria deaths and substantially decrease malaria morbidity, toward the long-term goal of elimination. USAID also provides support to malaria control efforts in other countries in Africa, including Burkina Faso, Burundi and South Sudan, and one regional program in the Amazon Basin of South America. The latter program focuses primarily on identifying and containing antimalarial drug resistance.

Do you think the U.S. spends too much on foreign aid, even good aid to fight malaria? How much do you think is spent? Put your estimate in comments, please — and by all means, look for sources to see what the actual amount is.


Texas Gov. Abbott sides with cancer, brags about it

October 23, 2015

I get e-mail from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and all too often it leaves me shaking my head in disgust.

This one came today. I suppose one needs to understand that the e-mail is intended to mislead the recipients about what Gov. Abbott is doing.

In the War on Cancer, Abbott has sided with cancer. As Attorney General in the later stages of the wilting administration of the beleaguered Rick Perry, Abbott refused to investigate a Texas Constitutionally-established, billion-dollar fund to support cancer research whose administration then-Gov. Perry had turned over to old political friends.

Tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money went into black holes of bank accounts of Perry’s political supporters.

Abbott should have recused himself from any investigation by his office, because under the laws setting up the research fund, he was on the board.  Any investigation would need to answer the question about what Abbott had done to be sure the funds were spent as the law intended.

Conflicts of interest don’t bother Greg Abbott, though, so long as the conflicts work in favor of his friends, and political donors.

Fortunately for Texas, there is another, separate office to investigate public wrongdoing in state agencies, the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office. That office indicted one of the cancer agency’s officials (he was convicted of misappropriating $11 million in public funds), and promised to indict more.

This so angered Perry he stepped all over the Texas Constitution to bring down the Travis County DA — and that earned Perry his own indictment after an investigation by a GOP-led task force.  Oh, yeah, there were other shenanigans by Perry that he might have wanted to cover up; but the cancer research abuse already sent one Perry buddy to jail.

You get the idea. Cancer research is political in Texas, and probably not all that serious a concern to GOP elected officials. Cancer is something poor people get. Republicans have health insurance.

For years, Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas and the rest of the nation offered free cancer screenings and checkups to women who otherwise could not get them for lack of money. These services have nothing to do with abortion, but a lot to do with obstetrical and gynecological care poor women cannot get otherwise.

Well, now Greg Abbott has ordered funding for those health care services to stop.

Read Abbott’s fund-raising letter — yes, he wants me (and you) to donate to his unholy campaign against women’s health care — and pay particular attention to how he avoids any mention of what kinds of services this funding cut-off will kill. He wants you to think he’s fighting abortion.

Which might be oddly and rarely true, if his denial of cancer screenings enables cancer to kill a woman who might have later gotten an abortion, or destroy her ability to conceive at all.

See the letter, sent with the subject, “Another win against Planned Parenthood”:

___________________________________

Friend,

Abbott cuts funding for cancer fightAbbott cuts funding for cancer fight disclaimer_______________________________________

So there you have it. Greg Abbott wants you to send him money, because he’s stopped poor women in Texas from getting cancer screenings.

Because, abortion, liberty, guns, and probably, illegal immigrants.

And, because he can get away with it.

How stupid must a Texas politician be to think promoting cancer will help any of those problems? How conniving must one be to try to hoodwink Texans into sending him money, neglecting to mention it’s money to support cutting medical care to women who need it?

How stupid must Texas voters be, if they don’t see through this corrupt ruse?

More:


September 23, 1858: DON’T wash your hands!

September 23, 2015

Ignaz Semmelweiss

Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis

This is one of the classic stories of public health, an issue that most U.S. history and world history texts tend to ignore, to the detriment of the students and the classroom outcomes.

This is the story as retold by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky in The Experts Speak:

In the 1850s a Hungarian doctor and professor of obstetrics named Ignaz Semmelweis [pictured at left] ordered his interns at the Viennese Lying-in Hospital to wash their hands after performing autopsies and before examining new mothers. The death rate plummeted from 22 out of 200 to 2 out of 200, prompting the following reception from one of Europe’s most respected medical practitioners:

“It may be that it [Semmelweis’ procedure] does contain a few good principles, but its scrupulous application has presented such difficulties that it would be necessary, in Paris for instance, to place in quarantine the personnel of a hospital during the great part of a year, and that, moreover, to obtain results that remain entirely problematical.”

Dr. Charles Dubois (Parisian obstetrician), memo to the French Academy
September 23, 1858

Semmelweiss’ superiors shared Dubois’ opinion; when the Hungarian physician insisted on defending his theories, they forced him to resign his post on the faculty.

Gotta wonder what Dr. Dubois would make of the suits and sanitation procedures required today for health professionals who treat Ebola victims.

More: 

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


India, world’s last DDT maker, heaviest user, plans to stop

August 29, 2015

DDT sprayed in a vegetable market in India. (Photo: rzadigi) Living on Earth image

DDT sprayed in a vegetable market in India. (Photo: rzadigi) Living on Earth image

Sometimes big news sneaks up on us, without press releases. We often miss it.

Quiet little Tweet from journalist I’d never heard of, who passed along news from an obscure journal:

As a journalist, this guy has a piece of a world-wide scoop.

India is probably the last nation on Earth producing DDT.  In the last decade other two nations making the stuff got out of the business — North Korea and China. For several years now India has been the largest manufacturer of DDT, and far and away the greatest user, spraying more DDT against malaria-carrying mosquitoes, sand flies, and agricultural and household pests than the rest of the world combined.

As if an omen, India’s malaria rates did not drop, but instead rose, even as malaria rates dropped or plunged in almost every other nation on Earth.

Under the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) signed by more than 150 nations (not including the U.S.), DDT was one of a dozen chemicals targeted to be phased out due to its extremely dangerous qualities, including long-term persistence in the environment and bioaccummulation, by which doses of the stuff increase up the food chain, delivering crippling and fatal doses to top predators.

A perfect substitute for DDT in fighting some disease-carrying insects (“vectors”) has never been developed. Health officials asked, and the Stockholm negotiators agreed to leave DDT legally available to fight disease. Annex B asked nations to tell the World Health Organization if it wanted to use DDT. Since 2001, as DDT effectiveness was increasingly compromised by resistance evolved in insects, fewer and fewer nations found it useful.

The site Mr. Nazakat linked to is up and down, and my security program occasionally says the site is untrustworthy. It’s obscure at best. Shouldn’t news of this type be in some of India’s biggest newspapers?

I found an article in the Deccan Herald, confirming the report, but again with some

India-United Nations pact to end DDT use by 2020

India-United Nations pact to end DDT use by 2020

New Delhi, August 26, 2015, DHNS:

It would be better to switch to another insecticide, says expert

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment. DH file photo

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment. DH file photo

India has launched a $53 million project to phase out DDT by 2020 and replace them with Neem-based bio-pesticides that are equally effective.

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment.

India on Tuesday entered into a $53 million (Rs 350 crore) partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility to replace DDT with safer, more effective and green alternatives.

“As per the plan, the National Botanical Research Organisation, Lucknow, tied up with a company to produce Neem-based alternatives for the malaria programme. The production will start in six months,” Shakti Dhua, the regional coordinator of UNIDO told Deccan Herald.

Till last year, the annual DDT requirement was about 6,000 tonnes that has now been cut down to 4,000 tonnes as the government decided to stop using it in the Kala-Azar control programme.

A recent study by an Indo-British team of medical researchers found that using DDT without any surveillance is counter-productive as a vector control strategy as sand flies not only thrive but are also becoming resistant to DDT.

“It would be better to switch to another insecticide, which is more likely to give better results than DDT,” said Janet Hemingway, a scientist at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. While the Health Ministry wanted to bring in synthetic pyrethroids, the United Nation agencies supports the bio-pesticides because of their efficacy and long-lasting effects.

“The new initiative would help check the spread of malaria and other vector-borne diseases. These include botanical pesticides, including Neem-based compounds, and long-lasting insecticidal safety nets that will prevent mosquito bites while sleeping,” Dhua said.

Ending the production and use of DDT is a priority for India as it is a signatory to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) of 2002 that seeks to eliminate the use of these chemicals in industrial processes, drugs and pesticides. DDT is one of the POPs.

The clock is counting down the last years of DDT.  Good.

If events unroll as planned, DDT making will end by 2020, 81 years after it was discovered to kill bugs, 70 years after it was released for civilian years, 70 years after problems with its use was first reported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 58 years after the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, 50 years after European nations banned some uses, 48 years after the famous U.S. ban on agricultural use, 19 years after the POPs Treaty.

When will the news leak out?

More:


%d bloggers like this: