Disney showed how to beat malaria in the Americas, without DDT

February 26, 2017

Still photo from Walt Disney's "Winged Scourge," a wanted poster for "Anopheles, alias Malaria Mosquito." The 1943 film short suggested ways to cut populations of the malaria-spreading mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. Disease prevention would aid the war effort in 1943, it was hoped.

Still photo from Walt Disney’s “Winged Scourge,” a wanted poster for “Anopheles, alias Malaria Mosquito.” The 1943 film short suggested ways to cut populations of the malaria-spreading mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. Disease prevention would aid the war effort in 1943, it was hoped.

Malaria’s scourge hobbled economic progress across the Americas, and critically in World War II, that hobbled the war effort to defeat the Axis powers, Germany and Japan.

U.S. government recruiting of Hollywood film makers to produce propaganda films hit a zenith in the war. Even animated characters joined in. Cartoonists produced short subject cartoons on seeveral topics.

In 1943 the Disney studios distributed this film starring the Seven Dwarfs, among the biggest Disney stars of the time. The film was aimed at Mexico, Central America and South America, suggesting ways people could actually fight malaria. Versions were made in Spanish and English (I have found no Portuguese version for Brazil, but I’m still looking.)

the lost Disney described the film:

The first of a series of health-related educational shorts produced by the Disney studios and the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs for showing in Latin America. It was also the only one to use established Disney characters (the Seven Dwarfs).

In this propaganda short, the viewers are taught about how the mosquito can spread malaria. A young mosquito flies into a house and consumes the blood of an infected human. She then consumes the blood of a healthy human, transmitting the disease into him. It turns out that this is actually a film within a film and the Seven Dwarves are watching it. They volunteer to get rid of the mosquito by destroying her breeding grounds.

A Spanish-language version of the film:

Fighting malaria in the U.S. became a grand campaign in Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. Roosevelt administration officials saw malaria as a sapper of wealth, especially in the rural south. Part of the charge of the Tennessee Valley Authority was to wipe out malaria. By 1932, public health agencies in malaria-affected counties were beefed up to be able to promptly diagnose and treat human victims of malaria. TVA taught methods of drying up mosquito breeding places around homes and outdoor work areas. Sustained campaigns urged people to make their homes tighter, against weather, and to install screens on windows and doors to prevent mosquito entry especially at peak biting periods, dusk to after midnight.

U.S. malaria deaths and infections plunged by 90% between 1933 and 1942 — just in time to allow southern military bases to be used for training activities for World War II. After the war, the malaria-fighting forces of the government became the foundation for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). With the introduction of DDT after 1945, CDC had another weapon to completely wipe out the remaining 10% of malaria cases and deaths.

It’s worth noting that in the end, it is the disease malaria that is eradicated, not the mosquitoes. In most places in the world, eradication of a local population of disease carriers is a temporary thing. A few remaining, resistant-to-pesticide-or-method mosquitoes can and do quickly breed a new population of hardier insects, and often surrounding populations will contribute new genetic material. Eradication of a vector-borne disease requires curing the disease in humans, so that when the mosquitoes come roaring back, they have no well of disease from which to draw new infection.

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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.

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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.

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Good news, or great challenge? U.S. could help eliminate malaria

December 13, 2016

World Malaria Report 2016, published December 13, offers great hope in progress made against malaria in the past 16 years.

But it also notes a severe challenge: Funding to beat malaria works well, but funding pledges sometimes are not met, and progress against the disease slowed some in 2016.

In 2000, nearly a million people died from malaria worldwide. In 2015, the death toll had been cut to ~470,000, a 50% reduction in 15 years.

In 2016, ~429,000 people died from malaria. It’s 40,000 fewer people than the year before. Malaria fighters had hoped for more.

Most deaths occur in Africa, most deaths occur to children, and most deaths occur in areas where distribution of insecticide-impregnated bednets has not been complete. Distribution was slowed in 2016 by lack of funds at steps in the process, from manufacturing the nets (now done significantly in Africa) to distributing the nets, to educating people how to use them. Nets are more effective than pesticide spraying, with DDT or the other 11 approved pesticides, and considerably less expensive.

A child shows off the mosquito bednet that keeps him malaria-free. Image from Nothing But Nets.

A child shows off the mosquito bednet that keeps him malaria-free. Image from Nothing But Nets.

WHO’s press release on the Report laid out the problem, with hints at a solution.

Sustained and sufficient funding for malaria control is a serious challenge. Despite a steep increase in global investment for malaria between 2000 and 2010, funding has since flat-lined. In 2015, malaria funding totalled US$ 2.9 billion, representing only 45% of the funding milestone for 2020 (US$ 6.4 billion).

Governments of malaria-endemic countries provided about 31% of total malaria funding in 2015. The United States of America is the largest international malaria funder, accounting for about 35% of total funding in 2015, followed by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (16%).

U.S. funding was just over $1 billion. That may sound like a lot, but it’s not even a drop in the U.S. federal budget bucket.

With a doubling of the U.S. contribution to $2 billion, the U.S. could again lead the world in fighting malaria, and set a good example of American democracy in action.

In doing that, another 100,000 lives might be saved each year.

Then, U.S. would have high moral ground to urge other nations to contribute to fighting malaria, either directly through WHO or through non-governmental organizations whose work goes too-often unsung, such as Malaria No More, Nothing But ‘Nets, and the Clinton Foundation.

$10 buys a net and distribution, and a net protects a child from malaria better than spraying dangerous insecticides, for two to five years.

What are the odds the Trump administration could be recruited to beat malaria? Let’s increase those odds.


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


DDT FAIL: Mosquito-borne diseases deplete medical care in DDT’s world capital

September 15, 2016

India News Today photo shows insecticide fogging in crowded Delhi neighborhoods to combat Chikungunya virus by striking down mosquitoes that transmit the disease from one human to another.

India News Today photo shows insecticide fogging in crowded Delhi neighborhoods to combat Chikungunya virus by striking down mosquitoes that transmit the disease from one human to another.

In the western world, libertarians, so-called conservatives and anti-science people call for a “return” of DDT to fight Zika virus spread.

But in the world’s DDT capital, India, where DDT is still made and more DDT is applied than in the rest of the world combined, DDT’s failures stand out. News reports say health care in key Indian cities is hamstrung by doctors and nurses getting mosquito-borne diseases.

Why don’t they just use “the magic powder,” DDT, to wipe out mosquitoes? Oh, Dear Reader, India has used DDT extensively, for everything, for 60 years. Mosquitoes that carry disease, and all other mosquitoes, and many other insect pests, developed resistance and immunity to DDT from that use.

Apart from the fact that DDT would be the WRONG pesticide to use for anything other than malaria-carrying mosquitoes from the genus Anopheles, it simply does not work.

If DDT advocates paid attention to news and history, they’d not call for more DDT anywhere for any reason.

India Today detailed the simmering crisis in Delhi in a story headlined, “Dengue-chinkungunya outbreak takes down doctor, nurses and sanitation workers”:

Subhead:

Apart from doctors, even nurses, other members of the medical staff and sanitation workers are going on leave at a time when the number of people afflicted by dengue and chikungunya this year in the city and its suburbs has crossed two thousand.

As outcry over an onslaught of viral diseases in the Capital reaches fever pitch and hospitals struggle in the face of an unrelenting tide of patients, the men in white too have started calling in sick.

Apart from doctors, even nurses, other members of the medical staff and sanitation workers are going on leave at a time when the number of people afflicted by dengue and chikungunya this year in the city and its suburbs has crossed two thousand.

Malaria is carried almost always by Anopheles, but chikungunya is carried by two species of Aedes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These mosquitoes also carry dengue fever and Yellow fever. A. aegypti is the principal carrier of the Zika virus, worldwide. Health workers being felled by dengue and chikungunya tells us the area would also be fertile territory for the spread of Zika virus, if it were introduced there.

Careful watchers, therefore, will understand that DDT has worn out its usefulness against a wide variety of mosquito-borne diseases including Zika.

“In our hospital, 10 per cent of the staff is currently down with fever,” said Dr Ramesh Chugh, medical superintendent of Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya Hospital in south Delhi. “We have over 100 doctors, and currently 7-8 doctors are down with fever.”

Experts say heavier than usual rainfall, a large number of construction projects and scores of open drains in Delhi are allowing mosquitoes to breed in stagnant water.

Far too many commenters fail to understand that DDT was never the chief tool in fighting malaria, or any other disease. Instead, DDT was used to knock down local populations of mosquitoes, temporarily, so health care and better housing and other measures could cure humans of the diseases and remove mosquito breeding areas from areas around human homes and human activities. India’s failure to provide good sewage drainage, good storm sewage drainage, and otherwise plug up potholes and even tiny water catching places allows mosquitoes almost free rein. India relied too long on poisoning everything with DDT, instead of building a mosquito-resistant urban area.

At Lok Nayak Hospital in central Delhi, 18 doctors are on leave. “Either the doctors are down with fever or somebody in their family is ill. The doctors are taking leave for at least 4-5 days. We have had cases where physicians were ill but returned to work early seeing the number of patients,” said a senior doctor.

NURSES AND SANITATION WORKERS ALSO ON LEAVE

In east Delhi’s Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, 18 members of the medical staff, including doctors, nurses and sanitation workers, are absent. “In a staff of nearly 1200, 10-15 doctors are on leave due to viral illnesses,” said Dr Punita Mahajan, medical superintendent of Baba Ambedkar Hospital in northwest Delhi. “We are not exerting pressure on the doctors to continue if they feel slightly unwell as it is very important for the hospital to ensure that they remain healthy.”

The Delhi government has asked hospitals to ensure that dengue and chikungunya patients are treated without distress.

Officials say the health department has already dedicated an additional 1,000 beds for those suffering from fever at the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital, Janakpuri Super Speciality Hospital and Deep Chand Bandhu Hospital.

These institutes have been designated nodal hospitals for fever in the city. All hospitals- government and private – in the National Capital Territory have been directed to increase their surge capacity.

“While doctors are trying their best to remain on duty till the effect of vector-borne diseases recedes the city, the shortage in staff and the new directions from the government would add to the existing burden,” said a doctor on condition of anonymity.

The Delhi government says it is fully prepared to battle with the onslaught of diseases and has denied in the city high court claims that the Capital is facing its worst dengue crisis.

In an affidavit filed in the court, it said strict surveillance of preparedness and impact of these diseases has been carried out for taking further preventive measures as, due to environmental conditions, the number of diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and malaria shows an upswing during July to October.

India continues to learn that DDT is not magic, not often useful, and sometimes detrimental to disease control efforts.

Will the rest of the world watch and learn? No, DDT will not and cannot help in the fight against Zika virus’s spread to humans. Waste no more time wondering, but get on with the hard work of draining mosquito breeding places, improving houses with window screens and other improvements, and developing vaccines and other medicines. Now.

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DDT use plunged to just 10 nations in 2015; gone by 2020?

April 13, 2016

UN photo showing a mother and child protected from mosquito-borne disease by a bednet, the chief tool used in 2015 to prevent malaria transmission in endemic areas.

UN photo showing a mother and child protected from mosquito-borne disease by a bednet, the chief tool used in 2015 to prevent malaria transmission in endemic areas.

Just ten nations still used DDT in 2015, putting the planet on target to phase out all DDT use by 2020.

World Malaria Report 2015, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in early December, notes those nations reporting that they use DDT in public health fights against disease. Under the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty, any nation may use DDT simply by notifying WHO.  Signatories of the treaty usually agree to stop all use of DDT once current use ends. Since 2003, most nations using it found DDT simply didn’t work well enough to continue use it to fight malaria or any other vector-borne diseases.

In the 2015 Report, Appendix 2A lists methods of vector control used in nations (“vector” being the fancy word for carrier of the disease, or mosquitoes in the case of malaria).  (See pages 234 to 237 of the .pdf.)

Nations in which DDT is used to fight malaria
World Malaria Report 2015 Appendix 2A

  1. Botswana
  2. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  3. Gambia
  4. Mozambique
  5. Namibia
  6. South Africa
  7. Swaziland
  8. Zambia
  9. Zimbabwe
  10. India

Ten nations total, nine in Africa, plus India.

Despite political calls to “bring back” DDT as a means of fighting mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, no reports show any nation notified WHO it would do so. Most nations afflicted by Zika have been earlier afflicted by other diseases carried by the same species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti.  This species carries dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya, and perhaps others. Consequently, most of these nations have already tried DDT against the Zika carriers, and abandoned the projects when hoped-for results did not occur.

Every mosquito on Earth in 2016 carries at least a few of the alleles that make them resistant to, or even immune to DDT. DDT use also pushes mosquito populations to develop paths that make them quickly resistant to other pesticides. WHO guidelines urge public health officials never to use just one pesticide, but instead rotate among a dozen approved for vector use, in order to prevent the bugs from developing resistance. Resistance to pesticides remains one of the chief obstacles to eliminating disease, and a growing obstacle.

India is the world’s only known maker of DDT in 2015, and the heaviest user, using more of the pesticide than all other nations combined. Due to decreasing effectiveness of DDT as mosquito resistance to to it spreads and grows stronger, malaria has proliferated in India despite increased DDT application. In 2015, India announced to WHO it would suspend manufacture and use of DDT by 2020.

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