Malaria: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

MalariaMalaria is swarming the headlines like a pack of buzzing mosquitoes this week, but unfortunately it is reporting breaking news that is all things good, bad and ugly.

The good news is that the number of children under five years old that die of malaria worldwide has been cut in half since 2000. That is more than 3.3 million children who have been saved by efforts that range from simply getting more bed nets to drug effectiveness. It is actually a statistic that is extraordinarily important to workers who are fighting to end deaths caused by malaria. 77 percent of all malaria deaths are reported to be those of children that are under five years old.

In 2012, less than 500,000 children died of malaria, a figure that is the lowest it has ever been since the number was recorded. Clearly researchers are pleased but are still dismayed at how many children still die due to malaria. The sad part is that many deaths could be prevented by simply having bed nets available for these children.

The bad news circulating the globe right now about malaria is that researchers think that they might have come across a strain of malaria that is resistant to the drugs they have been fighting it with. Mostly this resistance has shown itself to take place in Southwest Asia, mainly in Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

The drug that is used is an artemisinin-based therapy that kills the most threatening form of the parasite that causes malaria. There are four total types of this parasite.

Researchers think that one possible cause of this resistance could be transporting malaria from one country to another. They also say that in these areas there often arises poor regulation and insufficient safety when treating patients with this drug, which could contribute to the reason it has become resistance. There have not been a startling amount of these cases yet, but researchers are gravely concerned and working hard to keep this resistance from reaching Africa.

The ugly news doesn’t concern death, or parasites or even drugs. What makes up the ugly news in the good, bad, and ugly trio is that the amount of funding that has been raised to go to providing nets for those at risk for malaria has dramatically fallen over the last three years.

Researchers say that they cannot properly express how big of a difference a simple net can make in the prevention of malaria. Still after a large drop in funding the World Health Organization says that the amount of nets they have given out has fallen from 145 million in 2010 to 92 million in 2011 to only 70 million in 2012. That is more than half in only three short years.

WHO says that this progress makes it very doubtful that they will reach there once expected goal of knocking the malaria death total to about zero by 2015.

Malaria is a deadly disease that threatens thousands of lives worldwide, especially the lives of children. The recent development of news that is good, bad and ugly should trigger more concern over the malaria epidemic and perhaps motivate a rise in donations for bed netting in the near future.

By Nick Manai

LA Times

Huffington Post

Time

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