Category Archives: COVID-19

Malaria News Today 2020-09-17

Leading off our news update are findings from eastern Kenya about a genetic blood grouping that may help prevent malaria. While government leaders in the Asia-Pacific region committed to eliminating malaria, a report from the Gates Foundation explains how COVID-19 has set progress back and without new tools it may take more than 25 years to rid the world of the disease. In that light, Novartis is staking its finances on being able to make medicines that will be accessible and fight malaria. More details and the Gates video can be seen by clicking the links below.

How Dantu Blood Group protects against malaria

The secret of how the Dantu genetic blood variant helps to protect against malaria has been revealed for the first time by scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Cambridge and the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya. The team found that red blood cells in people with the rare Dantu blood variant have a higher surface tension that prevents them from being invaded by the world’s deadliest malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. The findings were published in Nature and could be significant in the wider battle against malaria.

In 2017, researchers discovered that the rare Dantu blood variant, which is found regularly only in parts of East Africa, provides some degree of protection against severe malaria. The intention behind this new study was to explain why. Red blood cell samples were collected from 42 healthy children in Kilifi, Kenya, who had either one, two or zero copies of the Dantu gene. The Dantu variant created cells with a higher surface tension—like a drum with a tighter skin. At a certain tension, malaria parasites were no longer able to enter the cell.

Novartis ties bond sale to malaria treatment access in sustainability push

Novartis raised 1.85 billion euros on Wednesday from the sale of a bond on which interest payments will rise if the drugmaker fails to expand access to medicines and programmes to combat malaria and leprosy in a number of developing countries.

Investors are increasingly pushing companies to improve their track record on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues while sustainable investing grows in popularity, spurring an increase in sustainable debt issuance year after year. Novartis’ bond is only the third issue to date to link payments to creditors to company-wide sustainable development targets. By Yoruk Bahceli

Commitment to make Asia Pacific a malaria free region

Government officials from across Asia Pacific have come together during virtual Malaria Week 2020, to reaffirm their commitment to eliminating malaria and strengthening health systems to keep the region safe from health threats. Embracing the theme of “Inclusion. Integration. Innovation.”, officials called for increased collaboration and action to accelerate towards the goal of ending malaria in the region by 2030, at a time when major gains and regional progress are under threat due to disruptions caused by Covid-19.

It could take up to 25 years to eradicate malaria from Africa – Bill Gates

Bill Gates said: “Moving to malaria which is a very awful disease not just to the kids it kills but many kids whose brains are permanently damaged, the economic effects you have with malaria. If we don’t have new tools like vaccines or new ways of killing mosquitoes, it would probably take more than 25 years to get rid of malaria. If we get the new tools and they work, we think it can be done in under 20 years. So the malaria field is both trying to keep the number of deaths down, and we have to deal with the resistance that comes up, that the mosquitoes develop.”

Gates Foundation Report notes that, “We’ve been set back about 25 years in about 25 weeks.” Extreme poverty increased 7% because of COVID-19. In a video included in the Foundation’s report, Bill Gates explains how COVID-19 disrupts the fight against malaria.

Malaria News Today 2020-09-16

Today we learn about malaria-carrying A. stephensi invading African cities, how malaria outpaces COVID-19 in Central African Republic, and the need to examine malaria service delivery in the context of strong health services. Malaria Journal looks at ITN use in Uganda and malaria genetic variability even at the household level. Click on links to read full articles.

Spread of city-loving malaria mosquitoes could pose grave threat to Africa

An Asian malaria-carrying mosquito that has adapted to urban life has the potential to spread to dozens of cities across the African continent, a new modeling study suggests.
The mosquito species, Anopheles stephensi, poses a serious new threat for African cities, says Francesca Frentiu, a geneticist at the Queensland University of Technology who was not involved in the research. She praises the work as “an important effort, underpinned by robust methods.” A. stephensi hopped from Asia to the Arabian Peninsula between 2000 and 2010 and then made another jump to the Horn of Africa; scientists first discovered it in Djibouti in 2012, then later in Ethiopia and Sudan.

In times of COVID-19, malaria remains the number one killer of children in CAR

Since the beginning of the year, MSF teams have treated 39,631 malaria cases in Batangafo, compared to 23,642 in the same period last year. The hospital in Batangafo – a town of 31,000 people, including 22,000 displaced from elsewhere in the Central African Republic – is bustling with activity. While a particular focus has been placed on infection prevention and control measures to identify and isolate people with suspected cases of COVID-19, another deadly disease has a much heavier impact on the lives of people living here.

September is the rainy season, when malaria becomes more deadly than ever in the Central African Republic each year. It is the leading cause of death for children under five in the country. During periods when malaria transmission is high, eight out of ten paediatrics consultations in the hospital supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Batangafo are due to complications from malaria, including anaemia and dehydration.

Assessment of health service delivery parameters in Kano and Zamfara States, Nigeria

In 2013, the Nigeria Federal Ministry of Health established a Master Health Facility List (MHFL) as recommended by WHO. Since then, some health facilities (HFs) have ceased functioning and new facilities were established. We updated the MHFL and assessed service delivery parameters in the Malaria Frontline Project implementing areas in Kano and Zamfara States.

In 2016, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with the Nigeria National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP), established a 3-year intervention project, Malaria Frontline Project (MFP), with the objectives of strengthening the technical capacity of LGA-level health workers, improving malaria surveillance and facilitating evidence-based decision-making. The project was implemented in Kano and Zamfara States.

Some deficiencies in the list of facilities in DHIS2 and MHFL were uncovered making it difficult to submit and access malaria program data. Also, some facilities were still using the old version of register which did not collect all indicators required by DHIS2. In addition there were a small number of non-functional facilities. Finally the low number of facilities within the PHC category meeting the minimum HR requirement will hamper the countries effort to achieve its goal of universal health coverage. From the foregoing, the study identifies several areas to improve delivery of malaria services specifically and universal coverage in general.

Individual, community and region level predictors of insecticide-treated net use among women in Uganda: a multilevel analysis

ITN use attributable to regional and community level random effects was 39.1% and 45.2%, respectively. The study has illustrated that ITN policies and interventions in Uganda need to be sensitive to community and region level factors that affect usage. Also, strategies to enhance women’s knowledge on malaria prevention is indispensable in improving ITN use.

Genetic diversity and complexity of Plasmodium falciparum infections in the microenvironment among siblings of the same household in North-Central Nigeria

These findings showed that P. falciparum isolates exhibit remarkable degree of genetic diversity in the micro-environment of the household and are composed mainly of multiclonal infections, which is an indication of a high ongoing parasite transmission. This suggests that the micro-environment is an important area of focus for malaria control interventions and for evaluating intervention programmes.

Malaria News Today 2020-09-12/13 Weekend

Recent news over this weekend included efforts at school and peer education on bednets in Ethiopia, gender inequality effects of COVID-19 and pandemics, a reduction in severe malaria in Rwanda and increased use of home based case management, and the altering of scientific reports by political appointees. Links in these summaries take one to the full story.

Effectiveness of peer-learning assisted primary school students educating the rural community on insecticide-treated nets utilization in Jimma-zone Ethiopia

Abstract: Making insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) utilization a social norm would support the global goal of malaria eradication and Ethiopian national aim of its elimination by 2030. Jimma zone is one of the endemic settings in Ethiopia. This study aimed to report effects of malaria education, delivered by students, on community behaviours; particularly ITNs. The intervention engaged students from primary schools in participatory peer education within small groups, followed by exposing parents with malaria messages aimed at influencing perceptions and practices.

Over the intervention periods, the findings showed significant improvement in exposure to and content intensity of malaria messages delivered by students. Socio-demography, access, exposures to messages, and parental perception that students were good reminders predicted ITN utilization over the intervention periods with some changing patterns. Exposing the community to malaria education through students effectively supports behaviour change, particularly ITN usage, to be more positive towards desired malaria control practices. A school-based strategy is recommended to the national effort to combat malaria.

Melinda Gates calls on Leaders to Ensure that Women, Girls are Not Left Behind in the Global Response to COVID-19

Melinda Gates has launched a paper exploring how the COVID-19 pandemic has exploited pre-existing inequalities and drastically impacted women’s lives and livelihoods. In the paper, titled “The Pandemic’s Toll on Women and Girls,” Melinda makes the case that to recover fully from this pandemic, leaders must respond to the ways that it is affecting men and women differently. She puts forward a set of specific, practical policy recommendations that governments should consider in their pandemic response—to improve health systems for women and girls, design more inclusive economic policies, gather better data, and prioritize women’s leadership.Writing in the paper, Melinda describes how previous disease outbreaks, including AIDS and Ebola, tend to exploit existing forces of inequality, particularly around gender, systemic racism, and poverty.
Melinda concludes, “This is how we can emerge from the pandemic in all of its dimensions: by recognizing that women are not just victims of a broken world; they can be architects of a better one.

Severe malaria drops by 38% in Rwanda

In its annual Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases Report, the Ministry of Health says that the national malaria incidence reduced from 401 cases per 1,000-person in 2017-2018 fiscal year to 200 cases per 1,000-person in 2019-2020. According to the report, 4,358 cases of severe malaria (representing a 38 per cent reduction) were reported at the health facility level compared to 7,054 in 2018-2019. The decrease in malaria deaths is attributed to home based management interventions, the free treatment of malaria for Ubudehe Categories I and II and the quality of care at health facility level.

There has also been a steady increase of proportion of children under 5 and above plus adults who are seeking care from 13 per cent to 58 per cent in 2015-2016 and 2019-2020 respectively. “This indicates that interventions such home based treatment of children and adults that contributed to early diagnosis and treatment have been successful in decreasing the number of severe cases and consequently the number of malaria deaths,” the report indicates.

Political appointees sought to alter CDC scientific reports so they don’t contradict or undermine the president

Caputo (a US presidential appointee) and his communications staff have worked to delay CDC reports that contradict President Donald Trump’s rhetoric. One publication was held back for about a month, according to Politico, for recommending against the use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug touted by the White House as a potential cure for COVID-19.

The reports, written by career scientists, are known as the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, and according to Politico, are used to “inform doctors, researchers, and the general public about how Covid-19 is spreading and who is at risk.” Jennifer Kates, of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s global health work, who has relied on past reports, told Political they are “the go-to place for the public health community to get information that’s scientifically vetted.” Alexander (a presidential appointee), in this missive, said any future reports related to the coronavirus “must be read by someone outside of CDC like myself.”

Malaria News Today 2020-09-11

Today’s news and abstracts look at a variety of issues ranging from overall malaria funding funding needs to the effect of climate change on different types of mosquitoes and the diseases they carry (e.g. malaria vs dengue). We also examine the need for surveillance among nomadic groups and the use of cell phones in a saliva based malaria testing system. Please click the links below to read more on each subject.

Rwanda: Government Needs U.S.$70 Million to Fill Malaria Financing Gap

By Nasra Bishumba: The Government needs $73 million to bridge the funding in the funds needed to fight malaria between 2020 and 2024, The New Times can reveal. The Rwanda National Strategic Plan 2020-2024 to fight malaria drawn up in June this year indicates that although the implementation requires Rwf295bn ($280 million), the government already has funding commitment to the tune of $206.8m (equivalent to 74 per cent).

According to the strategic plan, a copy of which The New Times has seen, this leaves a gap of $73m which it hopes to mobilize from different sources. With these funds, the government is seeking to protect at least 85 per cent of the population with preventive interventions and to work towards promptly testing and treating suspected malaria cases by 2024. To achieve this, the biggest chunk of the funds will be invested in malaria prevention to a tune of $186m, an equivalent of 66 per cent of the entire budget.

Climate Change May Shift Risks of Mosquito-borne Diseases

By Asher Jones: More dengue, less malaria. That may be the future in parts of Africa on a warming planet, depending on where you live. New research says it’s all about which mosquitoes will thrive. And the methods to control one don’t necessarily work on the other.

The mosquito that spreads malaria prefers relatively cool temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit). The dengue mosquito does best at 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Fahrenheit). Because of this difference in optimal temperatures, “We would actually predict that climate change might have opposing effects [on disease transmission],” said Erin Mordecai, assistant professor of biology at Stanford University and lead author on the study. “Climate change might make it less suitable for malaria to be transmitted but more suitable for dengue to be transmitted.”

Africa’s Nomadic Pastoralists and Their Animals Are an Invisible Frontier in Pandemic Surveillance

@ASTMH The effects of COVID-19 have gone undocumented in nomadic pastoralist communities across Africa, which are largely invisible to health surveillance systems despite the fact that they are of key significance in the setting of emerging infectious disease. We expose these landscapes as a “blind spot” in global health surveillance, elaborate on the ways in which current health surveillance infrastructure is ill-equipped to capture pastoralist populations and the animals with which they coexist, and highlight the consequential risks of inadequate surveillance among pastoralists and their livestock to global health. As a platform for further dialogue, we present concrete solutions to address this gap.

Mobile phone-based saliva test wins NIH prize

Cornell researchers’ concept for a quick, non-invasive, mobile phone-based system to detect infectious diseases, inflammation and nutritional deficiencies in saliva was awarded a $100,000 National Institutes of Health Technology Accelerator Challenge prize. The NIH’s prize challenge encourages the development of new, non-invasive diagnostic technologies important for global health. For the group’s saliva-based test, a small 3D-printed adapter is clipped to a mobile phone and synced with a mobile app. The app uses the phone’s camera to image test strips to detect malaria, iron deficiency and inflammation, with results in under 15 minutes.

The proposal builds on the FeverPhone and NutriPhone platforms developed by the team at Cornell’s Institute for Nutritional Sciences, Global Health and Technology (INSiGHT). The technologies, funded by the NIH and the National Science Foundation, evaluate infections and nutritional status using blood. According to Mehta, technologies using salivary biomarkers could revolutionize how conditions such as malaria and iron deficiency are identified and addressed, especially in settings where access to primary health care and traditional, laboratory-based tests is limited.

Monsoon infections: How to tell the difference between dengue and malaria? Watch out for these symptoms

While both diseases are mosquito-borne and cause similar symptoms such as fever, joint/muscle pain, headaches, and fatigue, some differences between their symptoms can help you identify the specific infections. Unique symptoms of Malaria: Stomach problems such as vomiting, Diarrhoea, Dry cough, Shivering, Spleen enlargement Unique symptoms of Dengue: Pain behind the eyes, Swollen glands, Rashes

Innovate4AMR emphasizes social innovations in resource-limited settings

From Innovate4AMR Team: We are reaching out about Innovate4Health, a global design sprint for student teams to design innovative solutions to address emerging infectious diseases.
This collaborative design sprint grows out of our past two years’ worth of work organizing Innovate4AMR. With COVID-19, we have broadened the scope from drug-resistant infections to tackling urgent challenges and health inequities of emerging infectious diseases. Organized by the ReAct—Action on Antibiotic Resistance, the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), and the IDEA (Innovation + Design Enabling Access) Initiative at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Innovate4Health offers student teams the opportunity to join the front lines of the fight against antimicrobial resistance and COVID-19.
This year, student teams are encouraged to innovate around one of three pillars: 1) Ensuring effective prevention and treatment of emerging infectious diseases in the hospital setting; 2) Preventing zoonotic disease transmission in food systems; and 3) Making community health systems more resilient to emerging infectious diseases. We hope that you might pass this along to faculty colleagues at universities and share this opportunity with potentially interested students.
Taking a systems approach, Innovate4Health emphasizes social innovations that consider the needs of resource-limited settings. We are looking for student teams (2-4 students per team) with ideas for innovative solutions. Through the design sprint, teams will work through ideation, implementation, and advocacy strategies to support the adoption of these approaches. The selected teams will work with a team of experts to co-construct their solutions through both recorded and live learning sessions. We invite applications from teams that would be excited to collaborate with other highly talented student teams.
The design sprint will extend over three to four months. We will explore the local context of resource-limited settings through guided tours through virtual healthscapes, from a wet market to a secondary hospital.
Students do not need any previous experience on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) or other emerging infectious diseases. In the competitive application process, we are looking for student teams providing a vision for what they might want to innovate, including the specific problem and context, as well as sharing how they might be positioned to help implement such a project.
At the application stage, however, we do not expect fully developed projects. The design sprint process is intended to help teams develop further their ideas from the application stage. Innocate4AMR have outlined additional information on Innovate4Health on our website. There, you will also find more background information on Innovate4Health, as well as the design sprint timeline, Terms and Conditions, and submission guidelines. Last year, 163 student teams answered our call for Innovate4AMR applications, and ten finalist teams were selected.
The deadline for team applications is Sunday, October 18, 2020. Those selected to participate in the design sprint will go through developing stages of idea refinement, implementation planning, and advocacy planning, after which the best teams will have the opportunity to present to an international panel. We will be releasing additional resources to support teams in developing applications, and interested students can sign up for updates here.
Innovate4AMR would appreciate your help in spreading the word about Innovate4Health. If you or your students have further questions, please write our team at innovate4amr@gmail.com.
 

Malaria News Today 2020-09-08

Today we share news and abstracts concerning detecting malaria in pregnancy, news about the opening remarks from the WHO Director General at a special malaria and COVID-19 webinar, resumption of NTD activities after COVID-19 restrictions reduced, and mapping of Ebola carrying bats whose territory overlaps malaria in Africa. Click on the links to read more.

Prevalence and clinical impact of malaria infections detected with a highly sensitive HRP2 rapid diagnostic test in Beninese pregnant women

While sub-microscopic malarial infections are frequent and potentially deleterious during pregnancy, routine molecular detection is still not feasible. This study aimed to assess the performance of a Histidine Rich Protein 2 (HRP2)-based ultrasensitive rapid diagnostic test (uRDT, Alere Malaria Ag Pf) for the detection of infections of low parasite density in pregnant women.

This study demonstrates the higher performance of uRDT, as compared to cRDTs, to detect low parasite density P. falciparum infections during pregnancy, particularly in the 1st trimester. uRDT allowed the detection of infections associated with maternal anaemia.

The distribution range of Ebola virus carriers in Africa may be larger than previously assumed

Since Ebola overlaps both symptomatically and geographically with malaria in Africa, it is “Worrying that science has hitherto underestimated the range of Ebola-transmitting bat and fruit bat species. In this case, the models would provide a more realistic picture,” explains Dr. Lisa Koch

Based on ecological niche modeling, his team was able to show that the respective bat and fruit bat species are able to thrive in West and East Africa, including large parts of Central Africa. A wide belt of potential habitats extends from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia in the west across the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Sudan and Uganda in the East. A few of the studied bats and fruit bats may even occur in the eastern part of South Africa.

WHO Director-General’s Opening Remarks At the Webinar – Responding to the Double Challenge of Malaria and Covid-19

The WHO Director General is encouraged by efforts to maintain malaria services despite the COVID-19 outbreak, but says, “I would like to recognize and applaud all these efforts, and to thank all of you who have worked so hard to preserve and maintain those services to the greatest degree possible. However, despite these actions, it breaks my heart to report that we still expect to see an increase in cases and deaths from malaria.

“In a recent WHO survey of 105 countries, 46% of countries reported disruptions in malaria diagnosis and treatment. These disruptions threaten to set us back even further in realizing our shared vision for a malaria-free world.”

NTD Disease treatments restart in Africa as COVID-19 restrictions ease

It is not just malaria services that have been disrupted by COVID-19 responses. Treatment programmes that will reach millions of Africans at risk from debilitating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have restarted in a significant step towards COVID-19 recovery. Around one million people in Jigawa state, Nigeria have received antibiotics to treat the blinding eye disease trachoma and stop it from spreading.

Nigeria is the first country that Sightsavers and partners has supported to resume work on NTDs, which can have a devastating impact on some of the poorest communities in the world, with other African countries due to follow soon. In April, the threat of COVID-19 led the World Health Organization to recommend suspending mass treatment campaigns, which treat and prevent these diseases, but it has since provided guidance on restarting activities safely.

Malaria News Today 2020-09-04

Today, we are sharing more updates from newsletters and journal abstracts found online. Issues include citizens in Rwanda trapping mosquitoes, the need for standardizing microscopy, more information on Uganda’s Malaria fund, the challenge of containing three epidemics at once, an increase in cases in Namibia and genetic diversity of the parasite in Comoros. Click on links to read details.

Citizen science shows great potential to reduce malaria burden

A year-long collection of mosquitoes with self-made traps and over a hundred volunteers in rural Rwanda reporting levels of mosquito nuisance revealed when and where malaria risks were the highest. In addition to their reporting, the volunteers appeared to distribute knowledge and skills on controlling malaria within communities. Studies by Wageningen University & Research and the University of Rwanda show that citizen science has great potential to reduce the disease burden across the globe.

Uganda renews fight to eliminate malaria by 2030 – more on Malaria Free Uganda Fund

Uganda says it is fast-tracking efforts to eliminate malaria, which continues to take lives and bleed the country’s economy more than any other disease. The disease is responsible for 30 to 40 percent of outpatient hospital visits, 15 to 20 percent of admissions, and 10 percent of inpatient deaths, mostly pregnant mothers and children, according to the health ministry figures. The country on September 2 launched the board of directors of the Malaria Free Uganda Fund as part of its continued investment to eliminate the disease by 2030, as per the global target.

Malaria Free Uganda Fund is a nonprofit public-private partnership established to mainstream responsibility for malaria across all sectors and help remove financial and operational bottlenecks in fighting the disease. The National Malaria Control Program currently faces a three-year 206 U.S. million dollars budget gap, or 33 percent of the total, according to the ministry of health.  External donors, according to the ministry, fund over 95 percent of the fight against the disease in the country. The country is now looking at domestic resourcing in view of the global uncertainties like the COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting foreign financing. “The talent and experience we have mobilized to this board from the private and civil society will help the government achieve a significant reduction of malaria cases and deaths in Uganda,” said Ruth Aceng, minister of health while launching the board here.

Namibia records 12,507 malaria cases, 40 deaths in 2020

Namibia’s malaria cases this year increased to 12,507 from 2,841 recorded in 2019, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health. The southern African country recorded 31,000 cases of malaria in 2018. The National Vector-borne Diseases Control Program from the Health Ministry which monitors the weekly malaria situation in the country shows that this year alone 12,507 malaria cases where recorded, while 40 deaths occurred.

The ministry said the huge difference between 2019 and this year is attributed to the fact that 2019, was a drought year and the rainfall pattern was not similar to 2020 and 2018, hence the decline in malaria cases happened in 2019. According to the ministry, currently the implementation of the program activities amid COVID-19 is on halt due to some bottlenecks.

Congo sees increase in plague, at least 10 deaths this year

DR Congo is seeing an upsurge in cases of the plague, as the vast Central African nation also battles outbreaks of COVID-19 and Ebola. Since June, Congo has recorded at least 65 cases of the plague, including at least 10 deaths, in the eastern Ituri province according to Ituri provincial chief of health Dr. Louis Tsolu. While the plague is endemic in Ituri province, the number of cases is increasing and has already surpassed the total recorded in 2019 which had 48 cases and eight deaths, according to WHO.

Towards harmonization of microscopy methods for malaria clinical research studies

Microscopy performed on stained films of peripheral blood for detection, identification and quantification of malaria parasites is an essential reference standard for clinical trials of drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests for malaria. The value of data from such research is greatly enhanced if this reference standard is consistent across time and geography. Adherence to common standards and practices is a prerequisite to achieve this. The rationale for proposed research standards and procedures for the preparation, staining and microscopic examination of blood films for malaria parasites is presented here with the aim of improving the consistency and reliability of malaria microscopy performed in such studies.

These standards constitute the core of a quality management system for clinical research studies employing microscopy as a reference standard. They can be used as the basis for the design of training and proficiency testing programmes as well as for procedures and quality assurance of malaria microscopy in clinical research.

Genetic diversity of Plasmodium falciparum in Grande Comore Island

Despite several control interventions resulting in a considerable decrease in malaria prevalence in the Union of the Comoros, the disease remains a public health problem with high transmission in Grande Comore compared to neighbouring islands. In this country, only a few studies investigating the genetic diversity of Plasmodium falciparum have been performed so far. For this reason, this study aims to examine the genetic diversity of P. falciparum by studying samples collected in Grande Comore in 2012 and 2013, using merozoite surface protein 1 (msp1), merozoite surface protein 2 (msp2) and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genetic markers.

Malaria News Today 2020-08-31

From time-to-time we will feature a collection of news and abstracts available “today.” Here are five stories available on 31st August 2020.

Med-tech on a leash: The many diseases that can be detected by dogs

Malaria, a parasitic disease, which is transmitted to humans by Anopheles mosquitoes, can also be detected by our canine friends. In 2019, English researchers presented the results of a study conducted in The Gambia, which involved training dogs with socks that had been worn by children infected with malaria, who otherwise had no symptoms.
The experiment proved to be so successful that researchers are now planning on using this method to test for asymptomatic cases of the disease….

New Malaria Transmission Patterns Emerge In Africa.

An international study reveals how future climate change could affect malaria transmission in Africa over the next century. Malaria is a climate sensitive disease; it thrives where it is warm and wet enough to provide surface water suitable for breeding by the mosquitoes that transmit it. For more than two decades now, scientists have suggested that climate change may alter the distribution and length of transmission seasons due to new patterns of temperature and rainfall. The burden of this disease falls primarily on Africa. In 2018, out of an estimated 228 million cases of malaria worldwide, 93% were in the African continent.
Detailed mapping of malaria transmission is vital for the distribution of public health resources and targeted control measures.

In the past, rainfall and temperature observations have been used in malaria climatic suitability models to estimate the distribution and duration of annual transmission, including future projections. But factors affecting how rainfall results in water for mosquito breeding are highly complex, for example how it is absorbed into soil and vegetation, as well as rates of runoff and evaporation. A new study, led by the Universities of Leeds and Lincoln in the UK, for the first time combined a malaria climatic suitability model with a continental-scale hydrological model that represents real-world processes of evaporation, infiltration and flow through rivers. This process-focused approach gives a more in-depth picture of malaria-friendly conditions across Africa….

Covid has spelt a lockdown for routine health services in India

Official data are now available to show the extent to which routine health services in India were unavailable and the scale of its impact. The number of fully immunised children fell by over 15 lakh in the three-month period from April to June compared to the same months last year. The number of institutional deliveries fell by about 13 lakh. The registered number of TB patients undergoing treatment fell to almost half of what it was last year. People seeking cancer treatment as outpatients fell by over 70%. Hard-won progress on several national health goals, including the programme to bring down infant and maternal mortality or those to treat TB, malaria and non-communicable diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes and cancer,

Insecticide resistance in indoor and outdoor-resting Anopheles gambiae in Northern Ghana

The overall results did not establish that there was a significant preference of resistant malaria vectors to solely rest indoors or outdoors, but varied depending on the resistant alleles present. Phenotypic resistance was higher in indoor than outdoor-resting mosquitoes, but genotypic and metabolic resistance levels were higher in outdoor than the indoor populations. Continued monitoring of changes in resting behaviour within An. gambiae s.l. populations is recommended.

Highlighting the burden of malarial infection and disease in the neonatal period: making sense of different concepts

Review of neonates from 14 malaria-endemic countries found pooled prevalence in this specific age group. Importantly, their results suggest a prevalence of congenital malaria of 40.4/1000, and a prevalence of neonatal malaria of 12/1000, Interestingly, the authors also confirmed congenital malaria to be more frequent in settings with unstable malaria transmission, a finding in line with the hypothesis of the importance of the immunity background in the risk of congenital malaria.

Tropical Diseases and the World Health Assembly 73rd Meeting

If it were not difficult enough to guide global health during a pandemic, some world leaders are trying to deflect attention from the real dangers at hand to score on their petty political concerns. In the meantime, we need to focus on what tropical health and disease issues may actually be coming under consideration at the virtual WHA 73.

Agenda item 3 (A73/CONF./1 Rev.1) or “COVID-19 response Draft resolution” directly addresses the concerns of many that other major deadly diseases and essential services should not be further neglected. The large group of resolution proponents urge countries and organizations to,

“Maintain the continued functioning of the health system in all relevant aspects, in accordance with national context and priorities, necessary for an effective public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other ongoing epidemics, and the uninterrupted and safe provision of population and individual level services, for, among others, communicable diseases, including by undisrupted vaccination programmes, neglected tropical diseases, noncommunicable diseases, mental health, mother and child health and sexual and reproductive health and promote improved nutrition for women and children, recognizing in this regard the importance of increased domestic financing and development assistance where needed in the context of achieving UHC.”

In Provisional agenda item 23 (A73/32) “Progress reports by the Director-General” we find updates on guinea worm eradication and the burden of snakebite envenoming. The report notes the situation in 2019, which is a far cry from the millions of cases in the 1980d when the dracunculiasis eradication effort was launched. “In 2019, three countries reported a total of 53 human indigenous cases of dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease), namely, Angola (one case), Chad (48 cases) and South Sudan (four cases), from a total of 28 villages. Cameroon reported one human case, probably imported from Chad.”

It is important to note that, “The global dracunculiasis eradication campaign is based on both community and country-focused interventions,” where community members play an important role in surveillance and notification. This includes at-risk and border areas, as is being done in Cameroon. The challenge of human Dracunculus medinensis infection in dogs continues and points to the importance of One Health in the control and elimination of NTDs. Surveillance is not cheap, and the report stresses that funds are still needed so that international partners can continue to ensure that the last case of guinea worm is detected and contained.

Moving from the smaller serpent to the larger variety, the report recalls the May 2018 World Health Assembly resolution WHA71.5 on addressing the burden of snakebite envenoming. A global strategy, “Snakebite envenoming: a strategy for prevention and control” was launched in  in May 2019. The WHO Secretariat has “fostered international efforts to improve the availability, accessibility and affordability of safe and effective antivenoms for all, through assessments of antivenom manufacturing, training programs and stockpile procedures.

Finally, provisional agenda item 11.8 (A73/8) addresses a “Draft road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021–2030.” This builds on resolution WHA66.12 (2013) on WHO’s earlier road map for accelerating work to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases (2012–2020). The proposed interventions build on important principles including:

  1. Tackling neglected tropical diseases through support of the vision of universal health coverage
  2. Adopting grassroots approaches that enable access to some of the world’s poorest, hard-to reach communities and people affected by complex emergencies
  3. Monitoring progress against neglected tropical diseases as a litmus test of progress towards the achievement of universal health coverage

The report notes that “40 countries, territories and areas have eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease,” most notably dracunculiasis (as mentioned above, lymphatic filariasis and trachoma. Although “substantive progress has been made since 2012, it is evident that not all of the 2020 targets will be met.” Hence, a new draft road map for neglected tropical diseases for 2021–2030 is required. The three pillars supporting the new roadmap are outlined in the attached figure.

It is good to know that the 73rd World Health Assembly will not be completely overshadowed by COVID-19 and politics. Efforts to sustain and improve NTD control and elimination must not be jeopardized.

Zero Malaria Starts after Lockdown?

The novel 2019 coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 and SARS-COV2, is casting a heavy shadow over the 2020 World Malaria Day. People are trying to remain upbeat declaring the tagline “zero malaria starts with me,” but nothing can hide the fear that the current pandemic will both disrupt the current delivery of essential malaria preventive and treatment services, but will have longer term impacts on malaria funding and our capacity to learn new ways to reach malaria elimination goals. As we can see in the graphic to the right, accessible, lifesaving, community-based services may be especially hard hit.

Another ironic image is the indoor residual spray (IRS) team member with a face mask needed for protection from the insecticides being sprayed. When will such teams be able to go back into homes? When can household members actually pack out their belongings so that spraying can commence? When will such masks not be needed for intensive care COVID-19 case management instead?

WHO is urging “countries to move quickly to save lives from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa” because “New analysis supports the WHO call to minimize disruptions to malaria prevention and treatment services during the COVID-19 pandemic.” This will be difficult in high burden countries like Nigeria that are already on lockdown with over 1,000 coronavirus cases detected already. Modeling by WHO and partners has projected, “Severe disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and in access to antimalarial medicines could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa this year compared to 2018.”

The Global Malaria Program offers guidance for tailoring malaria interventions to the present circumstances. Great concern is drawn from previous epidemic situations when observing that, “it is essential that other killer diseases, such as malaria, are not ignored. We know from the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa that a sudden increased demand on fragile health services can lead to substantial increases in morbidity and mortality from other diseases, including malaria. The COVID-19 pandemic could be devastating on its own – but this devastation will be substantially amplified if the response undermines the provision of life-saving services for other diseases.”

Specifically, GMP recommends that national malaria programs should ensure the following:

  • a focal point for malaria is a member of the National COVID-19 Incident Management Team.
  • continued engagement with all relevant national COVID-19 stakeholders and partners.
  • continued access to and use of recommended insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs)
  • continuation of planned targeted indoor residual spraying (IRS)
  • early care-seeking for fever and suspected malaria by the general population to prevent a spike in severe malaria
  • access to case management services in health facilities and communities with diagnostic confirmation through rapid diagnostic tests [RDTs]
  • treatment of confirmed malaria cases with approved protocols
  • continued delivery of planned preventive services normally provided to specific target populations (SMC, IPTi, IPTp)
  • the safety of all malaria personnel and their clients in the process of carrying out the above interventions

In editorial in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene by Yanow and Good address the damaging longer term impact of the present shutdown. “The impacts of research shutdowns will be felt long after the pandemic. Many scientists study diseases that do not share the same obvious urgency as COVID-19 and yet take a shocking toll on human life. For example, malaria infects more than 200 million people and takes the lives of nearly half a million people, mostly young children, each year.1 During laboratory closures and without clinical studies, there will be no progress toward treating and preventing malaria: no progress toward new drugs, vaccines, or diagnostics.”

The case for continuing malaria services to save hundreds of thousands of lives is not difficult to make. The actual implementation during lockdowns and quarantines is a management challenge. The importance of malaria testing to provide patients with appropriate care for the right disease is crucial. The question is whether in resource strapped endemic countries these decisions and management arrangements can be made in a timely fashion and for the long term whether the next generation of research can proceed with much needed new medicines and technologies.