Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cheap Malaria Control

Sara is raising money for malaria control through the World Swim for Malaria. Go there and donate. You can save a life for $5.

It's sad that all the tools for malaria control are and have been available for decades, yet millions of people die each year from malaria (mostly children). Millions could be saved from death due to malaria using three means: (1) pyrethrin impregnated bednets, (2) spraying low concentrations of DDT on the inside walls of homes in malaria infested areas, (3) drug treatment, especially of infected, pregnant mothers (to protect the baby). None of this is overly expensive.

What burns me is the fact that common use of DDT, to control insect vectors, has been discontinued in many parts of the world. We have Rachel Carson and her book Silent Spring to thank for that. Use of DDT has pretty much been banned since 1972 by the stroke of the pen of William Ruckelshaus, head of the EPA at that time. He did this even in the face of much scientific evidence that DDT was not harmful to humans or the environment as used in malaria control. DDT, as used in agriculture, did have effects on the environment. But it was used in vast quantities probably because farmers thought 'more was better'. For malaria control, DDT is sprayed onto the inside walls of homes in malaria endemic regions. The major vector of malaria, Anopheles gambiense bites primarily indoors. After taking a blood meal the mosquito rests on an inside wall. Walls coated with a low concentration of DDT result in the death of the mosquito. Many developing countries governments have been pressured by environmentalist to stop the use of DDT. This has resulted in the re-emergence of malaria. For example, South Africa stopped the use of DDT in 1996 with a resulting 1000% increase in cases of malaria.

For much more in depth info go here.


B-Wizz said...

Wow Peter. I'm kind of amazed that you don't take Silent Spring as gospel. But then, I do know your love of using chemicals for solving pest problems.

PCS said...

Risk benefit is always good to consider. DDT for agriculture, probably not. DDT for vector control? There has never been a problem with DDT use.

B-Wizz said...

Oh, I know. You're preaching to the converted. From what I understand, and I could be wrong, agricultural use of antibiotics is the true cause of AB-resistant bacteria. The farmers keep the livestock constantly medicated in order to maximize profit. And one of my college microbiology professors blamed antibacterial soaps.