Category Archives: Surveillance

Malaria News Today 2020-10-05: Concerns from Mali, Comoros, Ecuador, Southeast Asia and More

News and abstracts provide more on the surge of malaria in Mali. COVID-19 complicates malaria elimination in Southeast Asia. Peace Corps health care for volunteers in Comoros is questioned. Malaria risk in Ecuador is investigated. Risk maps are used/not used in three Sub-Saharan countries. The potential of microbiological control is considered. More information on each topic is available in the links provided.

Health workers raise alarm over surge in malaria cases, deaths in Mali

More details emerge on malaria in northern Mali. Medical workers in Mali raised an alarm over a surge in malaria cases which has seen at least 23 people killed by the disease in just the past one week. About 13,000 malaria cases were reported in the north by medical workers between September 21 and 27, representing an 88 percent increase in cases from the previous week. 59 people have died of malaria in the nation’s northern region since the beginning of the year, according to the ministry, which confirmed the deaths of the 23 people over the aforementioned September period.

Will COVID-19 hamper ASEAN’s fight to eliminate malaria?

Although progress elsewhere in the world has been slow, in the Asia-Pacific, deaths due to the mosquito-borne disease have dropped by 70% and cases have dropped by 22%. Within ASEAN, those figures—according to the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA)—are 92% and 67% respectively. The battle to eliminate malaria is continually evolving with different species of disease-carrying mosquitoes and parasites presenting new challenges. In 2008, a new strain of malaria that proved resistant to the anti-malarial drug artemisinin, nicknamed “super malaria”, emerged in Cambodia. It spread through the Greater Mekong region into Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and by 2017, it had developed resistance to another drug, piperaquine.

In response, scientists and researchers focused their resources on areas where the new strain was present and were making headway towards eliminating it. COVID-19 could threaten that progress. “We have enough evidence from the Ebola epidemic to suggest how progress on malaria elimination could be derailed and we are seeing some clear warnings now,” APLMA/APMEN commented. Historically, malaria cases have risen in countries where healthcare is interrupted due to conflict, disaster and war.

Peace Corps faces questions over death of volunteer from Inverness

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times reported that the Peace Corps, which suspended all operations for the first time in its history as the novel coronavirus raced around the globe, is facing renewed questions about the quality of its medical care — in particular, after the death of a 24-year-old volunteer from undiagnosed malaria — as it prepares to send volunteers back into the field.

An investigation by the Peace Corps inspector general documented a string of problems with Heiderman’s care. Her doctor had “limited training in tropical medicine,” the investigation found, and failed to test for malaria, which would have revealed that Heiderman had been infected by the deadliest malaria parasite. The Peace Corps was also using outdated 2006 guidelines for malaria, which did not reflect the current standard of care.

Anopheline and human drivers of malaria risk in northern coastal Ecuador

Understanding local anopheline vector species and their bionomic traits, as well as related human factors, can help combat gaps in protection. In San José de Chamanga, Esmeraldas, at the Ecuadorian Pacific coast, anopheline mosquitoes were sampled by both human landing collections (HLCs) and indoor-resting aspirations (IAs) and identified using both morphological and molecular methods.

Among 222 anopheline specimens captured, based on molecular analysis. The exophagic feeding of anopheline vectors in San Jose de Chamanga, when analysed in conjunction with human behaviour, indicates a clear gap in protection even with high LLIN coverage. The lack of indoor-resting anophelines suggests that indoor residual spraying (IRS) may have limited effect. The presence of asymptomatic infections implies the presence of a human reservoir that may maintain transmission.

How useful are malaria risk maps at the country level?

This study examined the perceptions of decision-makers in Kenya, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Declining malaria prevalence and pressure on external funding have increased the need for efficiency in malaria control in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Modelled Plasmodium falciparum parasite rate (PfPR) maps are increasingly becoming available and provide information on the epidemiological situation of countries. However, how these maps are understood or used for national malaria planning is rarely explored. In this study, the practices and perceptions of national decision-makers on the utility of malaria risk maps, showing prevalence of parasitaemia or incidence of illness, was investigated.

Three different types of maps were used to show malaria epidemiological strata: malaria prevalence using a PfPR modelled map (Kenya); malaria incidence using routine health system data (Malawi); and malaria prevalence using data from the most recent Demographic and Health Survey (DRC). In Kenya the map was used to target preventative interventions, including long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) and intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp), whilst in Malawi and DRC the maps were used to target in-door residual spraying (IRS) and LLINs distributions in schools. Maps were also used for operational planning, supply quantification, financial justification and advocacy. Findings from the interviews suggested that decision-makers lacked trust in the modelled PfPR maps when based on only a few empirical data points (Malawi and DRC). Despite the availability of national level modelled PfPR maps in all three countries, they were only used in one country.

Infection of highly insecticide-resistant malaria vector Anopheles coluzzii with entomopathogenic bacteria

This study found that Chromobacterium violaceum reduces its survival, blood feeding propensity and fecundity of mosquitoes in Burkina Faso. The study was motivated by the concern that malaria eradication will not be achieved without the introduction of novel control tools. Microbiological control might be able to make a greater contribution to vector control in the future. The interactions between bacteria and mosquito make mosquito microbiota really promising from a disease control perspective.
Methods

To assess entomopathogenic effects of C. violaceum infection on mosquitoes, three different types of bioassays were performed in laboratory. These bioassays aimed to evaluate the impact of C. violaceum infection on mosquito survival, blood feeding and fecundity, respectively. During bioassays mosquitoes were infected through the well-established system of cotton ball soaked with 6% glucose containing C. violaceum.

The data showed important properties of Burkina Faso C. violaceum strains, which are highly virulent against insecticide-resistant An. coluzzii, and reduce both mosquito blood feeding and fecundity propensities. However, additional studies as the sequencing of C. violaceum genome and the potential toxins secreted will provide useful information render it a potential candidate for the biological control strategies of malaria and other disease vectors.

 

Malaria News Today 2020-09-25: Testing, Surveillance, Elimination

Differentiating malaria parasite species is something science can do today, but in the 1800s the debate was over what actually caused the disease.  This ability to test and diagnose gives us an important surveillance tool, the 3Ts. News from Ghana is that malaria deaths are reducing, and Guatemala is focusing on elimination. Read more at the links in each section.

Wyss Researchers Develop Malaria Diagnostic Procedure Capable of Differentiating Malaria Species

Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have developed a new malaria diagnostic test that efficiently detects and can distinguish between species of malaria parasites,
the new procedure significantly improves upon current diagnostic methods, which fail to differentiate between types of malaria. Procedures that only identify Plasmodium falciparum can lead to severe consequences for patients, since other types of malaria are resilient to therapies designed to treat Plasmodium falciparum because they enter a dormant stage in the human liver.

These genes help explain how malaria parasites survive treatment with common drug.

The essential malaria drug artemisinin acts like a “ticking time bomb” in parasite cells—but in the half a century since the drug was introduced, malaria-causing parasites have slowly grown less and less susceptible to the treatment, threatening attempts at global control over the disease.

In a paper published September 23 in Nature Communications, Whitehead Institute Member Sebastian Lourido and colleagues use genome screening techniques in the related parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) to identify genes that affect the parasites’ susceptibility to artemisinin. Two genes stood out in the screen: one that makes the drug more lethal, and another that helps the parasite survive the treatment…

Test, Treat, and Track: Strengthening Malaria Response Capabilities in Sierra Leone

A public-private partnership in Sierra Leone aimed to build capacity for testing, treating, and tracking malaria. The post notes the “public-private partnership in Sierra Leone was a collaboration between USAID’s Human Resources for Health in 2030 (HRH2030) program; the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the Pharmacy Consultancy of Sierra Leone; and the Sierra Leone National Malaria Control Program”.

NMCP partnered with pharmacies to strengthen their malaria case management capabilities. Anitta and her colleague Brenda Stafford, a trained pharmacist and Procurement and Supply Management officer, led the initiative, going pharmacy-to-pharmacy to train staff on the NMCP’s “Three T” approach: Test, Treat, and Track.

To address the first T, private pharmacies were given free malaria rapid diagnostic tests. According to 2016 data, only half of children under-five with fever received appropriate malaria testing. For the second T, the pharmacists were trained on malaria prevention, treating patients with uncomplicated malaria, and referring patients with severe malaria to health facilities. As for the last T, tracking malaria test results is key in forecasting the spread of disease. NMCP provided pharmacies with two forms that track results: a registry form to track patient information and a summary form which aggregates that into monthly data reports

Miasma War over cause of malaria was heated

Nicole Layton of the Chowan Herald reported that in the 1850s, two North Carolina doctors had a heated and protracted battle over the cause of malaria in the state. This Miasma War is so famous. So what the heck is Miasma? Those fans of Charles Dickens can tell you that at one point miasmas were thought to be the main vector for disease transmission.

During Dickens’ time in London the air was very foul and rather visible because of wood and coal and it smelled bad due to the lack of indoor plumbing. It was thought that this foul air was the cause of disease. Because our part of North Carolina had a lot of rotting vegetation and swamps there was certainly foul air about and very noticeable illness. So the general thought was that malaria was a result of this bad air.

Escuintla, Guatemala: Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI)

CHAI’s Guatemala Malaria Team is supporting the Ministry of Health’s National Malaria Program by providing technical assistance and supporting programmatic planning, execution, monitoring and evaluation of effective interventions in the department of Escuintla in southern Guatemala. Over the past five years, CHAI has engaged in the country and helped them make meaningful steps towards orienting their national strategic plans and systems towards the historical goal of malaria elimination.

CHAI’s Guatemala team works in close coordination with the Ministry of Health and other international partners to design, plan, execute and evaluate the impact of the country´s elimination-focused interventions in Escuintla.

Ghana: Malaria deaths in children under five reduce

Ghana has recorded a reduction in malaria deaths in children under five by 83 per cent over the last eight years, the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) has said. The rate of malaria-related deaths reduced from 0.6 per cent in 2012 to 0.1 per cent in 2019, showing significant inroads in malaria-related deaths among children. Malaria-related deaths of all ages also reduced by 2,799 in 2012 to 333 by end of 2019, representing an 88 per cent reduction.

Malaria News Today 2020-09-23/24

Today the issue of water is important for malaria mosquito propagation, both in irrigation and flooding. Artificial skin enables testing of mosquito biting. Fake medicines for malaria and other conditions threaten Africa’s health. Archived RDTs can aid surveillance. Finally there is concern for co-infection with both malaria and dengue leading to severe disease. Follow links below to read details.

Impact of sugarcane irrigation on malaria vector Anopheles mosquito fauna, abundance and seasonality in Arjo-Didessa, Ethiopia

Despite extensive irrigation development in Ethiopia, limited studies assessed the impact of irrigation on malaria vector mosquito composition, abundance and seasonality. This study aimed to evaluate the impact of sugarcane irrigation on species composition, abundance and seasonality of malaria vectors. Adult Anopheles mosquitoes were collected using CDC light traps from three irrigated and three non-irrigated clusters in and around Arjo-Didessa sugarcane irrigation scheme in southwestern Ethiopia.

Overall, 2108 female Anopheles mosquitoes comprising of six species were collected. The ongoing sugarcane irrigation activities in Arjo-Didessa created conditions suitable for malaria transmitting Anopheles species diversity and abundance. This could drive malaria transmission in Arjo-Didessa and its environs in both dry and wet seasons. Currently practiced malaria vector interventions need to be strengthened by including larval source management to reduce vector abundance in the irrigated areas.

Prevalence of and risk factors for severe malaria caused by Plasmodium and dengue virus co-infection

A systematic review and meta-analysis examined co-infection with both Plasmodium and dengue virus (DENV) infectious species could have serious and fatal outcomes if left undiagnosed and without timely treatment. The present study aimed to determine the pooled prevalence estimate of severe malaria among patients with co-infection, the risk of severe diseases due to co-infection, and to describe the complications of severe malaria and severe dengue among patients with co-infection. Relevant studies published between databases between 12 September 1970 and 22 May 2020 were identified and retrieved.

The present study found that there was a high prevalence of severe malaria among patients with Plasmodium and DENV co-infection. Physicians in endemic areas where these two diseases overlap should recognize that patients with this co-infection can develop either severe malaria or severe dengue with bleeding complications, but a greater risk of developing severe dengue than severe malaria was noted in patients with this co-infection.

South Sudan: Flooding deepens a humanitarian crisis in Pibor area

Today, however, the Pibor River has swelled to make parts of the town inaccessible and is threatening the clinic. Many neighborhoods cannot be reached by foot, and a local ferry is too expensive for many who live in the area. A mobile MSF team is providing medical care in hard-to-reach areas. “Our focus is now on malaria, measles and flooding,” said Josh Rosenstein, MSF deputy head of mission. “Today we are reaching out to the community through our daily mobile clinics, treating the most severe illnesses. We’re also implementing our flood contingency plan, which includes building additional flood defenses around the clinic to ensure we can continue to provide medical services, as the water level is rising at an alarming speed.”

Stratifying malaria receptivity in Bangladesh using archived rapid diagnostic tests

Surveillance of low-density infections and of exposure to vectors is crucial to understand where malaria elimination might be feasible, and where the risk of outbreaks is high. Archived rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), used by national malaria control and elimination programs for clinical diagnosis, present a valuable, yet rarely used resource for in-depth studies on malaria epidemiology. 1022 RDTs from two sub-Districts in Bangladesh (Alikadam and Kamalganj) were screened by qPCR for low-density Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax infections, and by ELISA for Anopheles salivary gland antibodies as a marker for exposure to vectors.

Concordance between RDT and qPCR was moderate. qPCR detected 31/1022 infections compared to 36/1022 diagnosed by RDT. Exposure to Anopheles was significantly higher in Kamalganj despite low transmission, which could be explained by low bed net use. Archived RDTs present a valuable source of antibodies for serological studies on exposure to vectors. In contrast, the benefit of screening archived RDTs to obtain a better estimate of clinical case numbers is moderate. Kamalganj could be prone to outbreaks.

New tool mimics human skin to allow detailed study of mosquito biting

eLife: Researchers develop a human skin mimic to study mosquito biting in high resolution without using humans as ‘bait.’ The tool, which uses an artificial blood meal and a surface that mimics human skin, will provide detailed understanding of blood feeding without using human subjects as bait. It can also fit conveniently into a backpack, allowing the study of mosquitoes in laboratory and natural environments.

Blood feeding is essential for mosquitoes to reproduce, but it is during blood feeds on human hosts that they pass on pathogens such as malaria. It consists of a bite ‘substrate’ – a transparent, temperature-controlled surface that mimics body temperature to attract mosquitoes. An artificial meal is applied on top of this and covered with a commonly used membrane that mosquitoes can pierce. The meal resembles blood, allowing mosquitoes to engorge and increase their weight by two to threefold. This bite substrate is then placed in a transparent cage, and an external camera records the mosquitoes’ behaviour. The team tested biteOscope with four medically important species of mosquito.

Counterfeiting of Fake Drugs in Africa: current situation, causes and countermeasures

The more desirable a product is the higher the tendency to replicate it and meet that parcel of consumers that want to join the trend but cannot pay the price. Profit is one of the many reasons that make counterfeit an attractive business for many.  Africa, unfortunately but not surprisingly, is one of the most affected continents, comprehensible since its markets have become a huge target for second generation goods, with a major focus on pharmaceutical drugs.

The World Health Organization (hereinafter, WHO) stated that 42% of all fake medicine reported to them between the years of 2013 and 2017 was linked to the African continent and we expect that these numbers fall short of reality. Africa is seriously affected by it and one clear example is the anti-malarial medication. Anti-malarials and antibiotics are amongst the most commonly reported as fake or substandard medical products.

Malaria News Today 2020-09-22: covering three continents

Today’s stories cover three continents including Surveillance for imported malaria in Sri Lanka, community perceptions in Colombia and Annual Fluctuations in Malaria Transmission Intensity in 5 sub-Saharan countries. In addition there is an overview of microscopy standards and an Integrated Macroeconomic Epidemiological Demographic Model to aid in planning malaria elimination. We also see how COVID-19 is disturbing Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention activities in Burkina Faso. Read more by following the links in the sections below.

Will More of the Same Achieve Malaria Elimination?

Results from an Integrated Macroeconomic Epidemiological Demographic Model. Historic levels of funding have reduced the global burden of malaria in recent years. Questions remain, however, as to whether scaling up interventions, in parallel with economic growth, has made malaria elimination more likely today than previously. The consequences of “trying but failing” to eliminate malaria are also uncertain. Reduced malaria exposure decreases the acquisition of semi-immunity during childhood, a necessary phase of the immunological transition that occurs on the pathway to malaria elimination. During this transitional period, the risk of malaria resurgence increases as proportionately more individuals across all age-groups are less able to manage infections by immune response alone. We developed a robust model that integrates the effects of malaria transmission, demography, and macroeconomics in the context of Plasmodium falciparum malaria within a hyperendemic environment.

The authors analyzed the potential for existing interventions, alongside economic development, to achieve malaria elimination. Simulation results indicate that a 2% increase in future economic growth will increase the US$5.1 billion cumulative economic burden of malaria in Ghana to US$7.2 billion, although increasing regional insecticide-treated net coverage rates by 25% will lower malaria reproduction numbers by just 9%, reduce population-wide morbidity by ?0.1%, and reduce prevalence from 54% to 46% by 2034. As scaling up current malaria control tools, combined with economic growth, will be insufficient to interrupt malaria transmission in Ghana, high levels of malaria control should be maintained and investment in research and development should be increased to maintain the gains of the past decade and to minimize the risk of resurgence, as transmission drops. © The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene [open-access]

Microscopy standards to harmonise methods for malaria clinical research studies

Research Malaria Microscopy Standards (ReMMS) applicable to malaria clinical research studies have been published in Malaria Journal. The paper describes the rationale for proposed standards to prepare, stain and examine blood films for malaria parasites. The standards complement the methods manual(link is external) previously published by the World Health Organization and UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR). The standards aim to promote consistency and comparability of data from microscopy performed for malaria research and hence to strengthen evidence for improvements in malaria prevention, diagnostics and treatment.

Microscopy is important in both malaria diagnosis and research. It is used to differentiate between Plasmodium species and stages and to estimate parasite density in the blood – an important determinant of the severity of disease. It is also used to monitor the effectiveness of drugs based on the rate at which parasites recrudesce or are cleared from the blood.

While rapid diagnostic tests have replaced microscopy in some contexts, microscopy remains an essential tool to support clinical diagnosis and research. The standardisation of methods allows direct comparisons from studies conducted across different points in time and location. This facilitates individual participant data meta-analyses, recognised as the gold standard approach to generate evidence for improvements in interventions and hence patient outcomes.

Estimating Annual Fluctuations in Malaria Transmission Intensity and in the Use of Malaria Control Interventions in Five Sub-Saharan African Countries

RTS,S/AS01E malaria vaccine safety, effectiveness, and impact will be assessed in pre- and post-vaccine introduction studies, comparing the occurrence of malaria cases and adverse events in vaccinated versus unvaccinated children. Because those comparisons may be confounded by potential year-to-year fluctuations in malaria transmission intensity and malaria control intervention usage, the latter should be carefully monitored to adequately adjust the analyses. This observational cross-sectional study is assessing Plasmodium falciparum parasite prevalence (PfPR) and malaria control intervention usage over nine annual surveys performed at peak parasite transmission. Plasmodium falciparum parasite prevalence was measured by microscopy and nucleic acid amplification test (quantitative PCR) in parallel in all participants, and defined as the proportion of infected participants among participants tested. Results of surveys 1 (S1) and 2 (S2), conducted in five sub-Saharan African countries, including some participating in the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP), are reported herein; 4,208 and 4,199 children were, respectively, included in the analyses.

Plasmodium falciparum parasite prevalence estimated using microscopy varied between study sites in both surveys, with the lowest prevalence in Senegalese sites and the highest in Burkina Faso. In sites located in the MVIP areas (Kintampo and Kombewa), PfPR in children aged 6 months to 4 years ranged from 24.8% to 27.3%, depending on the study site and the survey. Overall, 89.5% and 86.4% of children used a bednet in S1 and S2, of whom 68.7% and 77.9% used impregnated bednets. No major difference was observed between the two surveys in terms of PfPR or use of malaria control interventions. © The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene [open-access]

Community perception of malaria in a vulnerable municipality in the Colombian Pacific

Malaria primarily affects populations living in poor socioeconomic conditions, with limited access to basic services, deteriorating environmental conditions, and barriers to accessing health services. Control programmes are designed without participation from the communities involved, ignoring local knowledge and sociopolitical and cultural dynamics surrounding their main health problems, which implies imposing decontextualized control measures that reduce coverage and the impact of interventions. The objective of this study was to determine the community perception of malaria in the municipality of Olaya Herrera in the Colombian Pacific.

A 41-question survey on knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) related to malaria, the perception of actions by the Department of Health, and access to the health services network was conducted. In spite of the knowledge about malaria and the efforts of the Department of Health to prevent it, the community actions do not seem to be consistent with this knowledge, as the number of cases of malaria is still high in the area.

Use of a Plasmodium vivax genetic barcode for genomic surveillance and parasite tracking in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was certified as a malaria-free nation in 2016; however, imported malaria cases continue to be reported. Evidence-based information on the genetic structure/diversity of the parasite populations is useful to understand the population history, assess the trends in transmission patterns, as well as to predict threatening phenotypes that may be introduced and spread in parasite populations disrupting elimination programmes. This study used a previously developed Plasmodium vivax single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) barcode to evaluate the population dynamics of P. vivax parasite isolates from Sri Lanka and to assess the ability of the SNP barcode for tracking the parasites to its origin.

A total of 51 P. vivax samples collected during 2005–2011, mainly from three provinces of the country, were genotyped for 40 previously identified P. vivax SNPs using a high-resolution melting (HRM), single-nucleotide barcode method. The proportion of multi-clone infections was significantly higher in isolates collected during an infection outbreak in year 2007. Plasmodium vivax parasite isolates collected during a disease outbreak in year 2007 were more genetically diverse compared to those collected from other years. In-silico analysis using the 40 SNP barcode is a useful tool to track the origin of an isolate of uncertain origin, especially to differentiate indigenous from imported cases. However, an extended barcode with more SNPs may be needed to distinguish highly clonal populations within the country.

Coronavirus rumours and regulations mar Burkina Faso’s malaria fight

By Sam Mednick, Thomson Reuters Foundation: MOAGA, Burkina Faso – Health worker Estelle Sanon would hold the 18-month-old and administer the SMC dose herself, but because of coronavirus she has to keep a distance from her patients. “If I am standing and watching the mother do it, it’s as if I’m not doing my work,” said Sanon, a community health volunteer assisting in a seasonal campaign to protect children in the West African country from the deadly mosquito-borne disease.

Burkina Faso is one of the 10 worst malaria-affected nations in the world, accounting for 3% of the estimated 405,000 malaria deaths globally in 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than two-thirds of victims are children under five. Now there are fears malaria cases could rise in Burkina Faso as restrictions due to coronavirus slow down a mass treatment campaign and rumours over the virus causing parents to hide their children, according to health workers and aid officials.

“COVID-19 has the potential to worsen Burkina Faso’s malaria burden,” said Donald Brooks, head of the U.S. aid group Initiative: Eau, who has worked on several public health campaigns in the country.  “If preventative campaigns can’t be thoroughly carried out and if people are too scared to come to health centres … it could certainly increase the number of severe cases and the risk of poor outcomes.”

During peak malaria season, from July to November, community health workers deploy across Burkina Faso to treat children with seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC). This is the second year the campaign will cover the whole country with more than 50,000 volunteers going door-to-door, said Gauthier Tougri, coordinator for the country’s anti-malaria programme. Logistics were already challenging. Violence linked to jihadists and local militias has forced more than one million people to flee their homes, shuttered health clinics and made large swathes of land inaccessible. Now the coronavirus has made the task even harder, health workers said.

People in Cape Verde evolved better malaria resistance in 550 years

Yes, we are still evolving. And one of the strongest examples of recent evolution in people has been found on the Cape Verde islands in the Atlantic, where a gene variant conferring a form of malaria resistance has become more common.

Portuguese voyagers settled the uninhabited islands in 1462, bringing slaves from Africa with them. Most of the archipelago’s half a million inhabitants are descended from these peoples. Most people of West African origin have a variant in a gene called DARC that protects.

Deadly malaria and cholera outbreaks grow amongst refugees as COVID pandemic strains health systems.

Apart from the strain on health facilities during the pandemic, in some countries such as Somalia, Kenya and Sierra Leone, we are seeing that a fear of exposure to COVID-19 has prevented parents from taking their children to hospital, delaying diagnosis and treatment of malaria and increasing preventable deaths. COVID restrictions in some countries have also meant pregnant women have missed antimalarial drugs. Untreated malaria in pregnant women can increase the risk of anaemia, premature births, low birth weight and infant death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80% of programs designed to fight HIV, tuberculosis and malaria have been disrupted due to the pandemic and 46% of 68 countries report experiencing disruptions in the treatment and diagnosis of malaria.

Malaria News Today 2020-09-18/19

Several reports and studies aim to help understand the malaria parasite and the human behavior surrounding its control. Cultural perceptions in Benin influence treatment seeking. Tracking cases in India aid in elimination efforts. The contrasts between in vivo and in vitro studies are examined. The factors associated with anemia among children and women in Ghana are traced to malaria and other factors. Finally both human and mosquito immunity are discussed. Click the links in each section to read details.

Demonstration of indigenous malaria elimination through Track-Test-Treat-Track (T4) strategy in a Malaria Elimination Demonstration Project in Mandla, Madhya Pradesh

Using the current intervention and prevention tools along with optimum utilization of human resources,This project has revealed about 91% reduction of indigenous cases of malaria during the period from June 2017 to May 2020, through case management and vector control strategies. A total 357,143 febrile cases were screened, out of which 0.19% were found positive.

The reduction was similar in the three high prevalence blocks of the district. These results reveal that malaria elimination is achievable in India within a stipulated time frame. The reduction of malaria at the community level was further validated when zero malaria cases were diagnosed during hospital and community-based studies in Mandla. Prompt detection and treatment of imported/migratory cases may have prevented outbreaks in the district. This project has demonstrated that field programmes backed by adequate technical, management, operational, and financial controls with robust monitoring are needed for achieving malaria elimination.needed for achieving malaria elimination.

Risk factors for anaemia among Ghanaian women and children vary by population group and climate zone

Anaemia has serious effects on human health and has multifactorial aetiologies. This study aimed to determine putative risk factors for anaemia in children 6-59 months and 15- to 49-year-old non-pregnant women living in Ghana. Data from a nationally representative cross-sectional survey were analysed for associations between anaemia and various anaemia risk factors. National and stratum-specific multivariable regressions were constructed separately for children and women to calculate the adjusted prevalence ratio (aPR) for anaemia of variables found to be statistically significantly associated with anaemia in bivariate analysis. Nationally, the aPR for anaemia was greater in children with iron deficiency (ID; aPR 2.20; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.88, 2.59), malaria parasitaemia (aPR 1.96; 95% CI: 1.65, 2.32), inflammation (aPR 1.26; 95% CI: 1.08, 1.46), vitamin A deficiency (VAD; aPR 1.38; 95% CI: 1.19, 1.60) and stunting (aPR 1.26; 95% CI: 1.09, 1.46).

In women, ID (aPR 4.33; 95% CI: 3.42, 5.49), VAD (aPR 1.61; 95% CI: 1.24, 2.09) and inflammation (aPR 1.59; 95% CI: 1.20, 2.11) were associated with anaemia, whereas overweight and obese women had lower prevalence of anaemia (aPR 0.74; 95% CI: 0.56, 0.97). ID was associated with child anaemia in the Northern and Middle belts, but not in the Southern Belt; conversely, inflammation was associated with anaemia in both children and women in the Southern and Middle belts, but not in the Northern Belt. Anaemia control programmes should be region specific and aim at the prevention of ID, malaria and other drivers of inflammation as they are the main predictors of anaemia in Ghanaian children and women.

From Circulation to Cultivation: Plasmodium In Vivo versus In Vitro

Research on Plasmodium parasites has driven breakthroughs in reducing malaria morbidity and mortality. Standard in vitro culture environments differ dramatically from in vivo conditions in nutrient levels, hematocrit, and rheology and have lower variability in gas levels and temperature.

Nutritional and physical differences lead to pronounced, and often rapid, changes in phenomenon, important for understanding virulence in Plasmodium. Parasite drug sensitivity may be altered due to culture adaptation selection, supraphysiological metabolite concentrations, and in vitro media formulations. Parasites propagated in vitro, versus in vivo, show altered transcriptomic and genomic patterns related to virulence factors, metabolism, gametocytogenesis, and more.

Direct-from-host methodologies avoid the impacts of in vitro culture adaptation but limit the types of assessments that can be performed as many experiments either require equipment not readily available in endemic settings or necessitate long-term manipulation….

Between traditional remedies and pharmaceutical drugs: prevention and treatment of “Palu” in households in Benin, West Africa

In Benin, malaria clinical cases, including the larger popular entity called “Palu” are evoked when people get fever. “Palu” is often self-diagnosed and self-medicated at home. This study aimed to describe the use of herbal medicine, and/or pharmaceutical medicines for prevention and treatment of malaria at home and the factors associated with this usage.

Methods. A cross-sectional survey was conducted in Benin in an urban and in a rural area in 2016. Around 600 households in each place were selected by using a random sampling of houses GPS coordinates of the families. The association between socio demographic characteristics and the use of herbal medicine was tested by using logistic regression models.

Results. In Cotonou (urban), 43.64% of households reported using herbal or pharmaceutical medicine to prevent “Palu”, while they were 53.1% in Lobogo (rural). To treat “Palu” in Cotonou, 5.34% of households reported using herbal medicine exclusively, 33.70% pharmaceutical medicine exclusively and 60.96% reported using both. In Lobogo, 4% reported using herbal medicine exclusively, 6.78% pharmaceutical medicine exclusively and 89.22% reported using both. In Cotonou, the factors “age of respondent”, “participation to a traditional form of savings” and “low socioeconomic level of the household” were associated with the use of herbal medicine.

Conclusions. This study shows the strong use of herbal medicine to prevent “Palu” or even treat it, and in this case it is mostly associated with the use of pharmaceutical medicine. It also highlights the fact that malaria control and care seeking behaviour with herbal medicine remain closely linked to household low-income status but also to cultural behaviour. The interest of this study is mostly educational, with regards to community practices concerning “Palu”, and to the design of adapted behaviour change communication strategies. Finally, there is a need to take into account the traditional habits of populations in malaria control and define a rational and risk-free use of herbal medicine as WHO-recommended.

Malaria parasite fools body with protein to dodge immune system

By SHIGEKO SEGAWA: OSAKA- The parasite responsible for malaria generates a look-alike of a human protein to suppress the workings of the immune system, leaving humans “defenseless” against infection, according to Japanese and British researchers.
A team comprised mainly of researchers from Osaka University and the University of Oxford said they hope the finding will help lead to new therapies for the mosquito-borne tropical disease.

As plasmodium is resistant to the immune system, the body’s self-defense system, humans can become infected repeatedly. Three years ago, the researchers realized that when plasmodium infects human red blood cells, it generates proteins called RIFINs, which send out signals for suppressing immunity. During the latest study, the researchers analyzed the structure of RIFIN in detail and found it closely resembles part of the structure of a specific human protein, which is involved in the mechanism for preventing the immune system from staging an attack on the body by mistake.

That protein combines with a molecule that suppresses the workings of the immune system. The scientists found the RIFIN that closely imitates the human protein in shape also combines with the same molecule and dodges attacks of the immune system. “We hope our findings will help develop vaccines and therapeutic drugs for malaria,” said Hisashi Arase, a professor of immunology with Osaka University, who is part of the research team. The research results were published in Nature, the British scientific journal.

Why Do Insect Vectors Not Get Ill from the Microbes They Transmit?

Some Evidence from Malaria-carrying Mosquitos by Kevin Noonan. The conservation of diverse and molecularly well-defined hemocyte types between distantly related mosquito genera and the apparent absence of megacytes in our Ae. aegypti mosquito dataset raise questions as to how the immune systems of these mosquito species have evolved to limit their capacity to transmit parasites and arboviruses to humans. This knowledge will ultimately underpin immunological strategies aimed at interrupting disease transmission by rendering mosquitoes resistant to such pathogens.

The conservation of diverse and molecularly well-defined hemocyte types between distantly related mosquito genera and the apparent absence of megacytes in our Ae. aegypti mosquito dataset raise questions as to how the immune systems of these mosquito species have evolved to limit their capacity to transmit parasites and arboviruses to humans. This knowledge will ultimately underpin immunological strategies aimed at interrupting disease transmission by rendering mosquitoes resistant to such pathogens.

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

Malaria News Today 2020-09-10

These malaria and related news and abstracts stress the importance of sentinel surveillance systems, strong political and systems commitment to disease elimination, malachite green loop-mediated isothermal amplification for better malaria detection, and the threat of neglected fungal infections. An article from The Lancet shows that it is not just money that is needed to eliminate malaria, but better management and systems. Finally a bit of history from 18th Century North Carolina is shared. Click the links in each section to learn more about each topic.

Implementation of a malaria sentinel surveillance system in Togo: a pilot study

Since July 2017, 16 health facilities called sentinel sites, 4 hospitals and 12 peripheral care units located in 2 epidemiologically different health regions of Togo, have provided weekly data on malaria morbidity and mortality for the following 3 target groups:?<?5-years-old children,???5-years-old children and adults, and pregnant women. Data from week 29 in 2017 to week 13 in 2019 were analysed.

Each sentinel site provided complete data and the median time to data entry was 4 days. The number of confirmed malaria cases increased during the rainy seasons both in children under 5 years old and in children over 5 years old and adults. Malaria-related deaths occurred mainly in children under 5 years old and increased during the rainy seasons. The mean percentage of tested cases for malaria among suspected malaria cases was 99.0%. The mean percentage of uncomplicated malaria cases handled in accordance with national guidelines was 99.4%. The mean percentage of severe malaria cases detected in peripheral care units that were referred to a hospital was 100.0%. Rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination therapies were out of stock several times, mainly at the beginning and end of the year. No hospital was out of stock of injectable artesunate or injectable artemether.

These indicators showed good management of malaria cases in the sentinel sites. Real-time availability of data requires a good follow-up of data entry on the online platform. The management of input stocks and the promptness of data need to be improved to meet the objectives of this malaria sentinel surveillance system.

Evaluation of the colorimetric malachite green loop-mediated isothermal amplification (MG-LAMP) assay …

… for the detection of malaria species at two different health facilities in a malaria endemic area of western Kenya. Prompt diagnosis and effective malaria treatment is a key strategy in malaria control. However, the recommended diagnostic methods, microscopy and rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), are not supported by robust quality assurance systems in endemic areas. This study compared the performance of routine RDTs and smear microscopy with a simple molecular-based colorimetric loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) at two different levels of the health care system in a malaria-endemic area of western Kenya.

Patients presenting with clinical symptoms of malaria at Rota Dispensary (level 2) and Siaya County Referral Hospital (level 4) were enrolled into the study after obtaining written informed consent. Capillary blood was collected to test for malaria by RDT and microscopy at the dispensary and county hospital, and for preparation of blood smears and dried blood spots (DBS) for expert microscopy and real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

Results of the routine diagnostic tests were compared with those of malachite green loop-mediated isothermal amplification (MG-LAMP) performed at the two facilities.
A total of 264 participants were enrolled into the study. At the dispensary level, the positivity rate by RDT, expert microscopy, MG-LAMP and RT-PCR was 37%, 30%, 44% and 42%, respectively, and 42%, 43%, 57% and 43% at the county hospital. Using RT-PCR as the reference test, the sensitivity of RDT and MG-LAMP was 78.1% (CI 67.5–86.4) and 82.9% (CI 73.0–90.3) at Rota dispensary.

At Siaya hospital the sensitivity of routine microscopy and MG-LAMP was 83.3% (CI 65.3–94.4) and 93.3% (CI 77.9–99.2), respectively. Compared to MG-LAMP, there were 14 false positives and 29 false negatives by RDT at Rota dispensary and 3 false positives and 13 false negatives by routine microscopy at Siaya Hospital. MG-LAMP is more sensitive than RDTs and microscopy in the detection of malaria parasites at public health facilities and might be a useful quality control tool in resource-limited settings.

Terminating Trachoma. How Myanmar eliminated blinding trachoma.

Download the book  from WHO New Delhi: World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.  Myanmar’s three-phase approach to eliminating trachoma has been a great success, which will certainly continue. The country’s visionary National Eye Health Plan 2017-2021, which is closely aligned with international policies for prevention of blindness, gives confidence that Myanmar will maintain its elimination status. This book chronicles how a combination of good leadership, effective partnerships, health-care facilities and hardworking health-care personnel helped Myanmar eliminate trachoma as a public health problem.

Health sector spending and spending on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and development assistance for health, SDG Progress

Although the progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, which aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, has been assessed in various works, there is less research focusing on tracking spending towards this goal. In this study, spending estimates were used to determine progress in financing the priority areas of SDG3, examine the correlation between outcomes and financing, and identify where resource gains are most required to attain the SDG3 indicators for which data are available.

From 1995 to 2017, domestic health spending was determined, disaggregated by source (government, out-of-pocket, and prepaid private) for 195 countries and territories. Outcomes suggest a global rise in total health spending since the state of the SDGs in 2015, reaching $7·9 trillion (7·8–8·0) in 2017, and is estimated to rise to $11·0 trillion (10·7–11·2) by 2030, although with substantial disparity across countries. Per estimates, low-income and middle-income countries, in 2017, had an estimated spending of $20·2 billion on HIV/AIDS, $10·9 billion on tuberculosis, and $5·1 billion on malaria in endemic countries.

Although there is an increase in both domestic government and DAH spending, across these three diseases, variation in the accompanied changes in outcomes was observed. Malaria was noted to have the most consistent reductions in outcomes across countries as spending has raised. Findings thereby suggest mixed progress towards meeting the SDG3 targets; the progress varied by country and by target. The evidence on the scale-up of spending and improvements in health outcomes suggest a nuanced relationship, such that outcomes do not always improve with increases in spending.

Although more resources may be required by the countries to achieve SDG3, there will also be a necessity for addressing other constraints in the broader health system such as inefficient allocation of resources across interventions and populations, weak governance systems, human resource shortages, and drug shortages.

Ignored fungal infections kill more people annually than HIV and malaria combined

Carolina Pohl-Albertyn says that, “You may also know that there are other infections causing great concern, such as HIV (690 000 deaths/year), tuberculosis (1.5-million deaths/year), and malaria (405,000 deaths/year). But what would be your reaction if you knew that fungal infections (ranging from skin and mucosal infections (e.g. vaginal or oral thrush) to deadly systemic and organ infections (e.g. candidiasis, cryptococcal meningitis, and bronchopulmonary aspergillosis]) affect more than one-billion people each year, of which more than 150-million cases are severe and life-threatening and cause 1.7 million deaths per year?”

Malaria was once scourge in Chowan County, North Carolina

Nicole Bowman-Layton (Editor) provides some history of malaria. It’s fascinating to think that less than 100 years ago this disease was still a major scourge in Chowan County. I’ve wanted to write about this topic for a long time since the coronavirus popped up but was a bit concerned about writing about a somewhat depressing topic.

According to NCPedia malaria came to North Carolina in the 1500s from some of the first European explorers who were bitten by our friendly Anopheles mosquitoes and then transmitted to the native population. And as we well know, we live in a very damp environment surrounded by sitting water which certainly increases the harvest of mosquitos. Some of the most prominent Revolutionary Edentonians suffered from the “Ague” during their lives. Declaration signer Joseph Hewes suffered from “intermittent fever and ague” throughout his life which were certainly symptoms of malaria.

The German traveler Dr. Johan Schoepf wrote in his book Travels in the Confederation, 1783-1784, of “…the sickliness of the inhabitants, especially prevalent in the low, overflowed, and swampy parts of this country, and giving the people a pale, decayed, and prematurely old look. This is the case not only about Edenton, but along the entire low-lying coast, which this fall, from Virginia to South Carolina, was visited with numerous fevers.

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.

African Children and COVID-19

Until recently it was thought that the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was less severe in children. Now as more cases can be studied, that prognosis is less likely to be true. The number of cases overall in Africa is still lower than the rest of the world, with 36,857 cases reported by the Africa CDC as of 29 April 2020, compared to over 3 million globally. One assumes out of this that the number of child cases would also be lower, but there is worry about other indirect effects of the pandemic on children.

Initial beliefs that the young would be less impacted by COVID-19 may have led to complacency. For example, the Atlantic reports that, “Africa will enjoy the advantage of youth. COVID-19 kills mostly the old, and Africans are relatively young, with a median age of 18.9. (The median age in the United States and China is 38.) That means, in effect, that about half of Africans who get COVID-19 will have a low risk of death.” The reality is turning out much different.

First from the medical standpoint, VOA reports that, “Doctors in Britain, Italy, Portugal and Spain are exploring a possible link between a severe inflammatory disease in children and the coronavirus. A growing number of children of various ages in several European countries have been admitted to hospitals with high fever and heart issues. Some also have suffered from gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea.” There is not enough information disaggregated by age to tell us how coronavirus is affecting children in Africa.

Secondly, UNICEF tells us that, “in any crisis, the young and the most vulnerable suffer disproportionately,” as children suffer from “collateral damage.” Lockdowns reduce access to essential services such as routine immunization, nutritional supplementation and malaria treatment and prevention programs and thus increase morbidity and mortality among children.

Nature published on 7th April that measles has currently, “killed more than 6,500 children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and is still spreading through the country.” Unfortunately “23 countries have suspended measles vaccination campaigns as they cope with SARS-CoV-2.”

There are groups of children that are especially vulnerable. In Kenya. “Street children are having a rough time during the curfew. Food and water are a real problem as hotels and eating places where they would normally get food have closed down. Movement is restricted,” according to the Guardian. The article goes further to share the concern that, “the virus could drive homeless children back to families where they are at risk of abuse.” Abuse of children during stressful times goes affects many confined to homes with out-of-work parents, not just street children.

We cannot afford to lose more children to direct and collateral mortality from the COVID-19 pandemic as it spreads in Africa. We need to begin with better data to tell us about infection and effects on children. Nigeria has done some reporting on age.  We need to ensure that all countries collect data on children and COVID-19 and also maintain routine child survival services.

A look at Botswana from WHO’s E-2020 country brief

Botswana is one of a handful of countries in Southern Africa that are nearing malaria elimination targets. The information below is extracted from WHO’s Elimination 2020 program site and shared verbatim.

“Botswana has made impressive progress in reducing indigenous malaria transmission, from a reported 71 000 cases in 2000 to 533 in 2018. Despite significant variation from year to year – with a higher number of malaria cases in 2014, 2016 and 2017 – the country has continued to report an overall decline in both cases and deaths since 2000.

“Challenges faced by Botswana’s national malaria control programme include the perception, in some communities, that malaria is a low priority disease, which can lead to people not protecting themselves with insecticide-treated nets and other WHO-recommended prevention measures. Added to this, some residents do not accept vector control activities such as insecticide spraying inside homes. However, the government’s commitment to eliminate malaria remains strong.

“WHO lists the following Successes in Botswana and the accompanying graph confirms the overall drop, despite some increases:

  • 69% decrease in number of reported malaria cases following outbreaks in 2014, 2016 and 2017;
  • all districts using District Health Information Software 2 (DHIS2) for real-time malaria reporting
  • mapping of all malaria cases at household level and stratification at village level
  • adoption of the Community Acting Together to Eliminate Malaria (CATTEM) approach
    enhanced community monitoring in malarious districts by malaria surveillance agents”

Hopefully with geographical and epidemiological targeting and attention to early warnings about climate change, Botswana can be among the next group of countries achieving malaria elimination.