Image is of the Anopheles mosquito, the main insect vector of Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of Malraria via the CDC
This post is a continuation of Pediatric Diseases in India (part 4).
“Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that affects more than 500 million people annually, causing between 1 and 3 million deaths. It is most common in tropical and subtropical climates and is found in 90 countries—but 90% of all cases are found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of its victims are children. The first stage consists of shaking and chills, the next stage involves high fever and severe headache, and in the final stage the infected person’s temperature drops and he or she sweats profusely. Infected people also often suffer from anemia, weakness, and a swelling of the spleen. Malaria was almost eradicated 30 years ago; now it is on the rise again.” (source)
The causative agent is the Plasmodium parasite with a complicated life cycle which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells.
Treatment: There are many antimalarial drugs, many derived from natural sources, but can also be chemically synthesized. If you want to know more, check out the Wikipedia page on the topic. Again, like the organism that causes tuberculosis, plasmodium is becoming increasingly resistant to drugs.
Prevention: Insecticides to control the vector mosquitoes, netting around beds at night, proper sanitation and drainage of water in the environment, and anti-malarial drugs taken in small doses as a preventative.
Famous Scientists: In 1902, Sir Ronald Ross received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his work on malaria, by which he has shown how it enters the organism and thereby has laid the foundation for successful research on this disease and methods of combating it. He made his discovery while stationed in India in 1897.
In 1948, Paul Hermann Muller received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his discovery of the high efficiency of DDT as a contact poison against several arthropods. Unfortunately, it is also toxic to humans and use had to be discontinued, but until then it was very good at eliminating mosquitoes that carried the malarial parasite.
Cutting Edge Science: Of interest is a company called Amyris which has used synthetic biology to create yeast that can produce artemisinic acid — a precursor of artemisinin, an effective anti-malarial drug. Learn more at their page.
Books to Read: I recommend two recent books. First, The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years by Sonia Shah and The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men: Inspiration, Vision, and Purpose in the Quest to End Malaria, which examines scientists’ quest to find a malaria vaccine.
Progress for children is slower
“Of the 4.8 million people living with HIV in Asia, nearly half (49%) are in India. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a fatal and incurable disease caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency Virus), AIDS attacks and destroys the immune system, gradually leaving the individual defenseless against illnesses that lead to death.” (source)
“While there have been gains in treatment, care and support available to adults, we note that progress for children is slower,” says Leila Pakkala, Director of the UNICEF Office in Geneva. “The coverage of HIV interventions for children remains alarmingly low. Through concerted action and equity-focused strategies, we must make sure that global efforts are working for children as well as adults”. (source)
Treatment: The introduction of highly active antiretroviral (ARV) therapy in 1996 was a turning point for those with access to sophisticated health-care systems. The cost of these drugs are out of reach for the 95% of people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries. Progress has recently been made in India, however, as Indian pharmaceutical companies are producing generic versions of ARVs and selling them for less than $1 a day. Another obstacle is that not everyone can tolerate the potent medications and their side effects. (source)
Books to Read: I have not read any of these seven suggested books, so cannot personally recommend any of these, but if I had to choose, I think I would start with The Epidemic: A History of Aids by Jonathan Engel.