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.

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