The Globe and Mail reports on “a massive resurgence of malaria [in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] that has baffled scientists and raised doubts about the global fight against the deadly scourge.” “Malaria is already the single biggest killer in Congo, with nearly 200,000 people dying annually, and now the trend is worsening,” the newspaper writes, noting that “the number of malaria patients has soared by a stunning 250 percent … since 2009,” according to data from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
“Low-quality and fake anti-malarial drugs flooding into markets in Asia and Africa are driving drug resistance and threatening gains made in the fight against the disease in the past decade, according to a study” conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published Monday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, Reuters reports (Kelland, 5/21). In an analysis of “27 sets of tests of antimalarial drugs purchased in Southeast Asia and Africa between 1999 and 2010,” “[a]bout a third of the drug samples from both continents failed,” the New York Times writes, noting, “Some were clearly criminal counterfeits, some were expired drugs that had been repackaged and some were poorly made with too little active ingredient” (McNeil, 5/21).
In this post in the Guardian’s “The Observer,” Mark Honigsbaum, a research associate at the University of Zurich’s Institute for Medical History, interviews Peter Seeberger, the director of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany, about a recent announcement that Seeberger and colleague FranÃ§ois LÃ©vesque “have discovered a simple and cost-effective way of synthesizing artemisinin from the waste products of the” sweet wormwood plant from which it is extracted. Honigsbaum notes that “extracting artemisinin is expensive and because it takes time to cultivate the plant there are often bottlenecks in supply,” and writes, “Their discovery has the potential to make the drug more affordable for the 225 million people affected by malaria every year” (2/4).
The WHO has disputed a study published last week in the Lancet “that claims nearly twice as many people are dying of malaria than current estimates,” VOA News reports. The WHO “says both its estimates of malaria deaths and those of the Lancet study are statistically the same for all groups in all regions,” with one exception, VOA writes, noting, “WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl says there’s a notable statistical difference in regard to children over five and adults in Africa.”
In this post in TIME World’s “Global Spin” blog, TIME’s Africa bureau chief Alex Perry examines questions surrounding an Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) study published in the Lancet on Friday that suggests “malaria kills almost twice as many people a year as previously believed,” writing, “If correct, at a stroke that overturns medical consensus, makes a nonsense of decades of World Health Organization (WHO) statistics — the official malaria numbers — and plunges the current multibillion-dollars anti-malaria campaign, and the push to reach a 2015 deadline for achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals, into grave doubt.”
“Malaria is killing more people worldwide than previously thought, but the number of deaths has fallen rapidly as efforts to combat the disease have ramped up, according to new research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington” published in the Lancet on Thursday, an IHME press release reports. “More than 1.2 million people died from malaria worldwide in 2010, nearly twice the number found in the most recent comprehensive study of the disease,” the press release states (2/2). The study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “used new data and new computer modeling to build a historical database for malaria between 1980 and 2010,” BBC News notes (Bowdler, 2/2).
“To tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), we need a far more collaborative and flexible approach,” Mark Booth, acting deputy director of Durham University’s Wolfson Research Institute and head of the N8 Parasitology Group, writes in this New Statesman opinion piece. Booth references the publication of new malaria mortality estimates in the Lancet and the signing of the so-called “London Declaration on NTDs” by a consortium of public and private partners last week and writes, “Malaria is not classified as an NTD because relatively large amounts of attention and funding have been pitted against the parasite. But if we now have to rethink malaria control strategies, then how confident can we be about controlling or eradicating any of the 17 NTDs identified by the World Health Organization?”
In this post in Malaria Free Future’s “Malaria Matters” blog, Bill Brieger, a professor in the health systems program of the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins University, examines recent discoveries of fake malaria medications being sold in Tanzania. He writes, “All of this comes amid efforts of [the Affordable Medicines Facility malaria (AMFm)] to ensure that prequalified anti-malarial drugs reach the market (public and private) at prices people can afford. Cheap fake drugs threaten this effort.” He concludes, “Despite improved access to [artemisinin-combination therapies (ACTs)] and improved quality of front line medicine store outlets, Tanzania cannot let up on its pharmacovigilence” (2/27).
In this post in the Results for Development Institute’s “Center for Global Health R&D Policy Assessment” blog, Project Director Jean Arkedis and Program Associate Edith Han interview Megumi Gordon, deputy director for malaria at the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), “to take an exclusive look into the [Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria (AMFm)] and its innovative mechanism to increase access to antimalarials.” Megumi discusses “AMFm’s current status, early lessons, and the latest in the ongoing — and sometimes contentious — debate about whether to subsidize [artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs)] in the private sector” (2/22).
Nature reports how “[i]n the hunt for drugs that target diseases in the developing world, … [p]harmaceutical companies are making entire libraries of chemical compounds publicly available, allowing researchers to rifle through them for promising drug candidates.” The journal writes, “The latest push for open innovation, unveiled last month as part of a World Health Organization road map to control neglected tropical diseases, will see 11 companies sharing their intellectual property to give researchers around the world a head start on investigating drug leads.”