Bednets enough enough to beat malaria in most places

October 8, 2015

Reuters caption:  A displaced child plays on a mattress under a mosquito net laid in the open at Tomping camp near South Sudan's capital Juba January 7, 2014. Reuters/James Akena/Files

Reuters caption: A displaced child plays on a mattress under a mosquito net laid in the open at Tomping camp near South Sudan’s capital Juba January 7, 2014. Reuters/James Akena/Files

Another blow to the DDT partisans.

In a report published last January, which I just reread, researchers found that bednets alone offer enough prevention of malaria that Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) using DDT or one of the other 11 WHO-approved insecticides, offers no additional protection, but at additional cost.

Lancet study said bednets alone are effective against malaria transmission, and spraying insecticides gives no additional benefit.

Reuters reported:

Spraying insecticides indoors offers children no additional protection from malaria when bed nets are used, a study said on Tuesday, as malaria cases and deaths worldwide continue to fall.

A study by medical journal The Lancet said donors should invest their limited resources on additional bed nets as the most cost-effective solution to tackling malaria, costing an average of $2.20 per person compared to $6.70 for insecticide.

“High bed net use is sufficient to protect people against malaria in areas that have low or moderate levels of malaria,” lead author Steve Lindsay said in a statement.

Malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease, kills more than 600,000 people a year, and most victims are children under five living in the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

The study coincided with the launch of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) annual World Malaria Report, which said the number of global malaria deaths fell by 47 percent between 2000 and 2013, with malaria cases also steadily declining, due to improved access to testing, treatment and bed nets. (


Reuters’s report is longer, at Reuters’s site.

But another report by June indicates that gains against malaria can still be tough to maintain, especially with global warming creeping up on us.

The fight’s not over.

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?


Malaria Twitterstorm, summer of 2015

August 18, 2015

Several good developments in the War on Malaria, worldwide — along with some alarming signs.  Maybe there will be time to blog seriously about each of these things later. Let’s get them known, and keep discussion going for the best way to beat malaria in a post-DDT world.

QPharm Tweeted about DSM 265, an experimental, one-dose treatment developed by the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV); the video is useful for the background those new to the issue can get on the problems of treating malaria, which make great hurdles for campaigns to eradicate malaria.

Here’s the video the Tweet leads to.

MMV said:

DSM265 is a selective inhibitor of the plasmodial enzyme called DHODH. DHODH is a key enzyme in the replication of the parasite. If we can inhibit that enzyme with DSM265, we can stop the life of the parasite.

Voice of America reported on Rollback Malaria’s call for $100 billion to be spent in the next 15 years, to stamp out the disease.

Malaria deaths are, in 2015, at an “all time low.” Deaths hover around 500,000 per year, most in Africa, and most among children under the age of 5. A staggering total, until compared to the post-World War II estimates of more than 5 million deaths per year, or the more than 3 million deaths per year in 1963, the year the World Health Organization (WHO) had to stop its ambitious campaign to eradicate malaria when pesticide DDT, upon which the campaign was based, produced resistance in mosquitoes in areas where the campaign had not yet reached.

Beating malaria is one of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations; this year’s report on MDG acknowledged the great progress already made.

Another non-governmental malaria-fighting organization discussed the news; see the press release from Malaria No More.

Medical News Today Tweeted out a tout for its own coverage of malaria — notable for a good, basic explanation of malaria and how to fight it.  I wish critics of Rachel Carson and WHO were familiar with half of these basic facts.

Medical News Now's Fast Facts on Malaria

Medical News Now’s Fast Facts on Malaria. Notable, that annual deaths now are way below the million mark. Good news!

One malaria vaccine has won approval for final testing. Good news, though anyone who follows vaccines knows it will take a while to test, and anyone who knows malaria fighting knows there are four different parasites, and delivery of any medical care is tough in far too many parts of the world where any form of malaria is endemic. Even small good news is good news.

Are we better informed about malaria now? Do we understand spreading a lot more DDT is not the answer?


Wellcome Trust interactive on malaria parasites’ lifecycle

August 12, 2015

Screen capture of the Wellcome Trust HTML presentation on the life cycle of malaria parasites. Malaria fighters know all this almost instinctively; too often policy makers fail to understand it, and so they recommend policies that do not make medical or economic sense in fighting the disease. Click image to go to Wellcome Trust site for full presentation.

Screen capture of the Wellcome Trust HTML presentation on the life cycle of malaria parasites. Malaria fighters know all this almost instinctively; too often policy makers fail to understand it, and so they recommend policies that do not make medical or economic sense in fighting the disease. Click image to go to Wellcome Trust site for full presentation.

Britain’s Wellcome Trust takes as one of its key missions the fight against malaria.  The Trust is a charitable foundation created from profits of pharmaceutical development and sales.

Recently I found this HTML animation presentation on the life cycle of the malaria parasite, something all malaria fighters must know to be effective.

It’s also something that DDT advocates seem unable to comprehend.  Malaria is not a virus, nor is it a venom mosquitoes manufacture, but it is a parasite that infects (and disables) both mosquitoes and humans. Mosquitoes catch the parasite from an infected human host. After the malaria parasite completes a couple of cycles in the gut of the mosquito, the parasite can be transmitted back to humans by a mosquito bite. And the cycle continues.

Since complete eradication of malaria-carrying mosquitoes is practically impossible in almost all cases, beating malaria requires an interruption in the cycle of transmission of the parasite, plus the curing of the disease in infected human hosts.

For example, the old World Health Organization (WHO) malaria eradication campaign, which operated from 1955 to 1963, DDT was used to temporarily knock down a population of mosquitoes, with hopes human hosts would be ridded of malaria parasites so that, in six months or so, when the mosquito populations roared back, there would be no malaria in local humans to infect mosquitoes. Consequently, mosquitoes can’t transmit a parasite they don’t have.

Lost on far too many people: Humans must be cured of malaria to prevent transmission. Beating malaria takes a lot more than just killing mosquitoes.

Check out the interactive:  Malaria parasite life cycle

While you’re there, snoop around to see what else Wellcome Trust is up to in the malaria fight.


India, world’s top DDT user, socked with malaria increase

July 22, 2015

Were it true that DDT is a magic solution to malaria, by all measures India should be malaria free.

Not only is India not malaria-free, but the disease increases in infections, deaths, and perhaps, in virulence.

Map showing location of Odisha, or Orissa, state, in India. Wikipedia image

Map showing location of Odisha, or Orissa, state, in India. Wikipedia image

Since the late 1990s a small, well-funded band of chemical and tobacco industry propagandists conducted a campaign of calumny against Rachel Carson, environmentalists in general, scientists and health care workers, claiming that an unholy and wrongly-informed conspiracy took DDT off the market just as great strides were beginning to be made against malaria.

As a consequence, this group argues, malaria infections and deaths exploded, and tens of millions of people died unnecessarily.

That’s a crock, to be sure. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, inspired an already-established campaign against DDT. But the malaria eradication program begun with high hopes by the World Health Organization in 1955, foundered in 1963 when the campaign turned to central, tropical Africa. Overuse of DDT in agriculture and minor pest control had bred DDT-resistant and immune mosquitoes.  Malaria fighters could not knock down local populations of mosquitoes well enough to let medical care cure infected humans.  (The campaign was not helped by political instability in some of the African nations; 80% of houses in an affected area need to be sprayed inside to stop malaria, and that requires government organizational skills, manpower and money that those nations could not muster.)

Detail map of Odisha state, India; map by Jayanta Nath, Wikipedia image

Detail map of Odisha state, India; map by Jayanta Nath, Wikipedia image

That was just a year after Carson’s book hit the shelves. DDT had been banned nowhere. WHO’s workers tried to get a campaign going, but complete failures stopped the program in 1965; in 1969 WHO’s board met and officially killed the malaria eradication program, in favor of control.

Malaria infections and deaths did not expand with the end of WHO’s campaign.  At peak DDT use, roughly 1958 to 1963, malaria deaths are estimated by WHO to have been as high as 5 million per year, 4 million by 1963. Total malaria infections, worldwide, were 500 million.

The first bans on DDT use came in Europe. When the U.S. banned DDT use on crops in 1972, okaying use to fight malaria, malaria deaths had fallen to more than 2 million annually by optimistic estimates.  Death rates and infection rates continued to fall without a formal eradication campaign. By the late 1980s, malaria killed about 1.5 million each year, a great improvement over the DDT go-go days, but still troubling.

Beating malaria is a multi-step program.  Malaria parasites must complete a life cycle in a human host, and then when jumping to a mosquito, another cycle of about two weeks in the mosquito’s gut, before being transmissible back to humans. Knocking down mosquito populations helps prevent transmission temporarily, but that is only useful if in that period the human hosts can be cured of the parasites.

In the late 1980s, malaria parasites developed strong resistance and immunity to pharmaceuticals given to humans to cure them.  Regardless mosquito populations, human hosts were always infected, ready to transmit the parasite to any mosquito and send drug-resistant malaria on to dozens more.

From about 1990 to about 2002, malaria deaths rose modestly to more than 1.5 million annually.

New pharmaceuticals, and new regimens of administration of pharmaceuticals, increased the effectiveness of human treatments; coupled with much better understanding of malaria vectors, the insects that transmit the disease, and geographical data and other technological advances to speed diagnosis and treatment of humans, and increase prevention measures, WHO and private foundations started a series of programs in malaria-endemic nations to reduce infections and deaths. Insecticide-impregnated bednets proved to be less-expensive and more effective than Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) featuring DDT or any of the other 11 pesticides WHO authorizes for home spraying.  (Home spraying targets mosquitoes that carry malaria, and limits expensive overuse of pesticides, plus limits and prevents environmental damage.)

Health care workers and most nations made dramatic progress in controlling and eliminating malaria, between 2000 and 2015, mostly without using DDT which proved increasingly ineffective at controlling mosquitoes, and which also proved unpopular among malaria-affected peoples whose cooperation is necessary to fight the disease.

By 2014, fewer than 220 million people got malaria infections, worldwide, a reduction of about 55% over DDT’s peak-use years. This is remarkable considering the population of the planet more than doubled in that time, and population in malaria-endemic areas rose even more. Malaria deaths were reduced to fewer than 600,000 annually, a reduction of more than 80% over peak DDT years. By 2015, malaria-fighters once again spoke of eradicating malaria from the planet.

In contrast, India assumed the position of top producer of DDT in the world, still making it even after China and North Korea stopped making it. But malaria control in India weakened, despite greater application of DDT.  The world watches as DDT, once the miracle pesticide used in anti-malaria campaigns, became instead a depleted tool, unable to stop malaria’s spread despite increasing application.

Were DDT the magic powder, or even “excellent powder” its advocates claim, India should be free of malaria, totally. Instead, Indians debate how best to get control of the disease again, and start reducing infections and deaths, again. Below is one story, rather typical of many that crop up from time to time in India news; this is from the Odisha Sun Times. (Note: Lakh is a unit in the Indian number system equal to 100,000; crore is a unit equal to 10,000,000.)

Odisha has 36% of malaria cases in India; ranks third in deaths

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 15:

Odisha has earned the dubious distinction of having a hopping 36% share of all malaria cases in India and ranking third in the list of states with the most number of deaths leaving most of its neighbours way behind.

Malaria Mosquito

These startling revelations have been made in a report tabled by the Union Health and Family Welfare department in the Parliament.

What is more disturbing is that the number of persons getting afflicted with the disease in the state is rising every year despite the state government spending crores of rupees to arrest the spread of the disease.

The state government has been spending crores of rupees on a scheme christened ‘Mo Masari’ (“My Mosquito Net’) and has been claiming that the number of afflicted has been falling in the state. But the Central government report has exposed the hollowness of the claim.

According to the report, out of the 10.70 lakh people who were afflicted with malaria in India in the year 2014, about 3.88 lakh (36.26%) were from Odisha. In 2010, around 3.95 lakh were afflicted with the disease. The number had come down to 3.08 lakh in 2011 and had further scaled down to around 2.62 lakh in 2012, the report says.

But the number of malaria patients in Odisha is again rising at a faster pace since then, according to the Health Ministry report.

Even though the neighbouring states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are identified as malaria prone states, much less people are afflicted with malaria in these states as compared to Odisha. In 2014, only 1.22lakh people were affected with the disease in Chhattisgarh while only 96,140 persons were affected by malaria in Jharkhand in the same year.

Statistics cited in the report also reveal that Odisha has left many states behind and has marched ahead of others in the matter of number of deaths due to malaria. It ranks third on this count in the country.

In the year 2014, a total of 535 persons had died of malaria across the country. Out of them 73 (13.64%) were from Odish while Tripura had the maximum number of deaths in terms of percentage at 96 (17.94%) followed by Meghalaya, another hilly state, with a toll count of 78 (14.58%).

Another disturbing fact that has emerged from the report is that out of those who have died of malaria in Odisha, 80 percent are from tribal dominated areas.

The districts of Gajapati , Kalahandi , Kandhamal, Keonjhar, Koraput, Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Nabarangpur, Nuapada, Rayagada and Sundargarh account for both the maximum number of deaths due to malaria and maximum number of persons afflicted with the disease.

Hoax victims afraid to discuss their misplaced DDT & malaria anger . . .

July 20, 2015

We see it almost daily — probably because we’ve got searches set to find comments on malaria and DDT.

British robin, or robin redbreast. Image found on Pinterest, and also ironically used to illustrate Pointman's screed for DDT.

British robin, or robin redbreast. Image found on Pinterest, and also ironically used to illustrate Pointman’s screed for DDT. Ironic, because Britain didn’t use as much DDT, and European robins were not so badly affected as U.S. robins. Not sure if Pointman knew that and used the photo to intentionally mislead, or if he’s just really bad at identifying species.

Some well-meaning guy (or woman) writes a long piece about conscience, and then claims to have lost respect for science, or medicine professionals, or the World Health Organization (WHO), or Rachel Carson or environmentalists, or all of them at once, because Rachel Carson’s ban on DDT meant malaria infections and deaths exploded, and libruls just won’t allow anyone to fix it.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that story is impossible, because:

The standard rant against Rachel Carson in favor of DDT is impossible in three ways:

  1. EPA’s regulation cannot travel back in time to cause an end to WHO’s malaria eradication campaign (1963) nine years before the rule was made (1972); nor can history and international law be changed to make EPA’s campaign stop the use of DDT outside the U.S.
  2. Mosquitoes do not migrate thousands of miles, across oceans. EPA’s ban on spraying U.S. crops with DDT, chiefly cotton, did not cause mosquitoes to migrate from Arkansas to Africa to spread malaria.  Had they done so, DDT in Africa had a pretty good chance to getting them, anyway.
  3. A reduction of malaria deaths from 4 million to 584,000, is not an increase in deaths.

These impossibilities do not even act as speed bumps to people in a hurry to condemn science, Rachel Carson, malaria fighters and environmentalists, in a mad rush to praise DDT, a deadly poison that doesn’t do what we hoped it would, any more.

Those undeterred from slandering Rachel Carson and environmentalists often don’t want to be informed of any errors in their rant. And so, Pointman, with a nasty false indictment of science, law and environmentalists, refuses to allow my posts to correct his errors.

His screed here.  It contains at least 6 gross errors, repeating all the impossibilities listed above, and slandering both Rachel Carson and William Ruckelshaus as “mass murderers,” with the false claim that EPA stopped DDT use against malaria.

My response, dealing with a small part of the errors, below (and here at Pointman’s blog; but in moderation, so you can’t see it, at the time of this posting).

EPA’s order banning DDT use in the U.S., on crops, specifically lifted the court-imposed ban on DDT manufacture, and specifically allowed use of DDT in the U.S. or anywhere else on Earth to fight vector-borne diseases — that is, malaria.

DDT manufacture continued in the U.S. until late 1984, when a new law made DDT manufacturers responsible for not poisoning their neighbors and neighborhoods. Most DDT manufacturing arms of larger chemical companies were spun off as separate enterprises, and they declared bankruptcy rather than assume any liability for the poisons they made for huge profits.

See description of EPA order and links to the original documents here:

I waited several days, and send two notices asking to spring the comment from moderation. I don’t think “Pointman” is interested in discussion.

Further reflection, a further thought — “Pointman” probably is not interested in discussion, not because he fears it — he’s probably armed, what does he have to fear? — but because he no longer caresHe’s seen the effects of good intentions gone wrong, and if it ever occurs to him it’s not his intentions, nor his going, that might be wrong, he’ll never let on.


Rachel Carson’s 108th birth anniversary

May 27, 2015

Rachel Carson, the great biologist and author, was born on May 27, 1907.

Last year, Google’s Doodle featured Ms. Carson, and the crazy, ill-informed, hoaxing and hoaxed right wing, came unglued.

Less flap this year, but I suspect it’s only because there’s been no great public recognition of the date.  Hoaxsters who insist DDT was always safe, or that banning DDT on cotton crops in Arkansas and Texas somehow caused malaria in Africa, or that Idi Amin became a great fan of Rachel Carson and stopped spraying DDT in Uganda to save American eagles, or other similarly silly-but-vicious things, or who just hate anything to do with protecting the environment, usually erupt on Earth Day, World Malaria Day, and Rachel Carson’s birthday.

Not much on her birthday this year (but stay tuned).

Meanwhile, our country’s sober liberal conscience, The Nation, looks back at their review of Silent Spring, and does a little cringing. Probably not necessary:

Rachel Carson, date unknown. (US Department of Agriculture) - via The Nation

Rachel Carson, date unknown. (US Department of Agriculture) – via The Nation

It is difficult not to cringe at the sight of the headline to the following review of Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book, Silent Spring—“Man and Other Pests”—given that it was a review of what was then probably the most influential intellectual contribution by an American woman to date.

Miss Carson is indignant about the unexpected effects of our thoughtless broadcasting of pesticides. She writes persuasively, for she has taken great pains to gather and check her facts. Parts of the book were published in The New Yorker magazine last summer, and immediately provoked wide interest, discussion and controversy. This reaction will undoubtedly intensify with the publication of the book. No one is in a better position than Miss Carson to arouse the indignation of the public and the conscience of the chemical industry, and it may well be that she has made a real contribution to our salvation.

[At The Nation, you can read the entire review quoted from above.]

Happy birthday, Ms. Carson.  You have become a hero to thinking people, conservationists, scientists and women everywhere.

You’ll be pleased to know the American symbol, the bald eagle, is back from extinction’s verge, along with the brown pelican, peregrine falcons and osprey.  You’d be surprised to know that, despite gross abuse of DDT in the 1950s and 1960s that caused mosquitoes all over the world to carry alleles resistance and immunity, DDT was saved from complete worthlessness by a reduction in use, and is still used in a few places today, indoors to protect wildlife, to fight malaria.  You were right about DDT.

You were right about fighting malaria, too.  You said in Silent Spring we should use integrated pest management to battle the mosquitoes that provide a site for part of the life cycle of the malaria parasites, and who then spread the disease.  When DDT failed the malaria eradication campaign in the 1960s, malaria fighters were left with little else. Malaria deaths have plunged, from the 4 million to 5 million per year you knew, to fewer than 500,000 per year now.  Worldwide, we’ve cut malaria deaths 45% just since 1999, when a group of non-governmental organizations and the World Health Organization formally adopted integrated pest management as the best way to fight the disease, and began distributing mosquito nets in a big way.

You were right, Rachel Carson. Humanity is a part of nature, and if we fight nature we end up fighting and killing ourselves.


One of my favorites from Gus Arriola (also appearing at the DDT Chronicles):


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,882 other followers

%d bloggers like this: