“A malaria vaccine could be a powerful new tool,” but “[c]ontrolling mosquitoes and diagnosing malaria remain essential. Among the highest priorities now is to develop new methods to do both,” a Bloomberg editorial states. “There is both less and more than meets the eye in the recent news that an experimental malaria vaccine cut in half the risk that children would contract the illness,” according to the editorial, which adds, “Many of the headlines that followed promised a life-saving vaccine around the corner — a prospect that in truth remains a maybe. At the same time, the trial results affirmed the benefits of a multipronged attack on malaria.”
The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria decided to cancel Round 11 grant approval during a two-day meeting in Accra, Ghana, that concluded on November 22, according to a Global Fund press release (11/23). The following opinion pieces address this action.
“A group of researchers led by Novartis AG have discovered novel malaria compounds that may prove to be more efficient than currently available treatments and could be used as a prophylactic,” the Wall Street Journal reports (Mijuk, 11/17). The class of drugs, called imidazolopiperazines, attacked malaria parasites in both the blood and liver when tested in mice, according to a study published Thursday in Science, Bloomberg notes. “Researchers are hunting for new treatments against malaria amid signs the disease is becoming resistant to drugs derived from artemisinin, the basis of the most-effective medicines, jeopardizing global efforts to curb the malady,” according to the news agency (Bennett, 11/17). Researchers said early phase human trials could start at the beginning of 2012, but it would be years before any related drug would come to market, the Wall Street Journal notes (11/17).
As part of its series on the relationships between human, animal and environmental health, titled “The Infection Loop,” HuffPost Green examines how changes in climate and landscape, human movement, agricultural practices, and microbe adaptation are affecting the spread of malaria. “Our disease-fighting weaponry has certainly improved in recent years, from the widespread distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets to hopeful progress towards a malaria vaccine,” but some “experts suggest that getting ahead of the disease, let alone maintaining a lead, is far easier said than done,” according to the article, which includes quotes from malaria researchers working in several academic disciplines (Peeples, 11/16).
“Millions of Cambodians are set to receive insecticide-treated mosquito nets as part of a government-led effort to mitigate the risk of malaria and dengue fever,” IRIN reports. “The nets will be distributed by the National Malaria Control Centre with technical assistance from WHO” and funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, according to IRIN. “The project aims to distribute 785,000 insecticide-treated nets in six provinces this month, including three of those hit hardest by the worst flooding in more than a decade, and “[i]n December, 1,915,000 insecticide-treated nets will be distributed in 13 provinces, the health ministry said,” IRIN writes. In 2010, Cambodia recorded 56,217 malaria cases and 135 deaths from the disease, according to the news service, which adds “Prime Minister Hun Sen [has] set a target for eliminating deaths from malaria by 2015, and infections by 2025” (11/14).
“Washington is in an era of budget-cutting, so we frequently hear calls to shrink or eliminate U.S. foreign-assistance programs,” which is why “several religious groups … are highlighting how these programs reduce global poverty and hunger, saving millions of lives,” Richard Stearns, president of World Vision USA, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. However, he says “evangelical Christians [are] largely absent from this religious coalition” and notes that “a Pew survey earlier this year found that 56 percent of evangelicals think ‘aid to the world’s poor’ should be the first thing cut from the federal budget.”
British Researchers Discover Receptor Necessary For Malaria Parasite To Invade Red Blood Cells, Offering New Vaccine Hope
Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the U.K. have “made a critical discovery about the way the most deadly species of malaria parasite invades human red blood cells,” Reuters reports. They “pinpointed a single receptor for a protein that is critical for the parasite to gain entry into red blood cells before multiplying and spreading,” according to a study published in Nature on Wednesday (Kelland, 11/9). “The researchers hope the finding will help them design a new malaria vaccine,” which “has been ‘a difficult nut to crack,’ Gavin Wright of the [Sanger Institute] said at a press briefing about the study in London on Monday,” ScienceNOW notes (Reardon, 11/9).
In a post in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ “Smart Global Health” blog, Julia Nagel, web and social media assistant at the Global Health Policy Center, examines “the obstacles that global malaria control efforts face,” writing that “eradicating malaria is complex and difficult” because “there are four species…
“Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the biotech start-up Amyris [have] developed a process to manufacture artemisinin, a crucial ingredient in first-line malaria drugs that until now had to be extracted from a natural crop called sweet wormwood,” PBS NewsHour reports. “The new semi-synthetic artemisinin … successfully entered the production phase through a public-private partnership with the drug company Sanofi-Aventis earlier this year” and “will hit the market beginning in 2012,” according to NewsHour. Olusoji Adeyi, who runs the affordable malaria medication program at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said the new formulation of artemisinin will help make better quality malaria treatments more affordable and increase access, NewsHour reports (Miller, 10/31).
In this Huffington Post opinion piece, Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University, notes some of the parallels between the development of RTS,S, the experimental malaria vaccine currently being tested in Africa, and the polio vaccine, but he says “there are also some particularly disappointing ways in which the polio and malaria efforts could differ.”