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Waking up to the Math of Malaria

In Malaria, Uncategorized on June 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm
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Thu, Jun 21 2012

By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – To the minerals and mobiles underpinning Africa‘s pacy growth over the last decade, you may soon be able to add malaria – or at least its absence.

Besides the huge human cost imposed on the continent – 90 percent of the 655,000 deaths estimated worldwide in 2010 – the mosquito-borne disease is an economic millstone, draining public and private resources and hammering productivity.

According to a 2001 study co-authored by U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs, the disease imposes an annual “growth penalty” of 1.3 percentage points on afflicted states, which includes most of those south of the Sahara apart from South Africa.

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and its biggest oil producer, malaria is responsible for up to 25 worker days lost per person per year, or two a month, due to direct infection or the need to stay at home to nurse a sick family member, often for a week or more.

In Zambia, it is the leading cause of absenteeism, accounting for more than twice as many days off as HIV/AIDS, and can consume up to 40 percent of the public health budget in cash-strapped frontline states.

It may not always be thus.

The number of malaria deaths has fallen dramatically in the last decade due to increased aid spending on basic items such as insecticide-treated bed nets and drugs, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

More excitingly, the holy grail of a vaccine against a notoriously adaptable parasite no longer appears unobtainable after an experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline was shown last year to halve the risk of African children getting the disease.

Even before the prospect of a vaccine, companies across Africa were waking up to the commercial sense of investing in a malaria-free workforce – and the results are encouraging governments to get in on the act.

Faced with endemic malaria in the 240,000 population town around its Obuasi gold mine in Ghana, AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third largest bullion producer, launched a multi-pronged campaign of bed-nets, indoor insecticide spraying and drugs that cut infections from 79,237 in 2005 to fewer than 16,000 in 2008.

The program cost the Johannesburg-based firm $1.3 million a year, but over that time the malaria drug bill at the mine’s hospital dropped from $55,000 to $9,800 a month, while work days lost each month fell from 6,983 to just 282.

“It really made economic sense because of the absenteeism and the cost of medication,” said Steve Knowles, the head of AngloGold’s anti-malaria operations.

The Ghana model is now being extended to communities around its mines in Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Mali and Guinea, bringing as many as 500,000 people under its umbrella.

Europe’s financial crisis and relatively sluggish rich-world growth have left a question mark over cash pools such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that have been complementing state and private sector efforts, threatening to unravel the gains made.

But Knowles said many governments were becoming increasingly aware of the mathematics of beating malaria and starting to put their own programs in place.

The prospect of an affordable vaccine is only going to increase the power of that argument for a region forecast to grow at 5.4 percent this year – even with malaria. Without it, that figure could be knocking on 7 percent.

“Now that they’re seeing the aid funding may not be there, it’s a bit of a wake-up call and governments are looking to do it themselves,” Knowles said. “What difference will a vaccine make? If it comes through, it’s going to be huge.”

(Editing by Ed Stoddard and Ron Askew)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/21/us-africa-money-idUSBRE85K0XI20120621

Diagnostic Test Approved for Dengue

In Dengue Fever, Malaria, Uncategorized on June 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm
June 21 2012

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received approval from the FDA for a new diagnostic test to detect the presence of dengue virus in people with symptoms of dengue fever or dengue hemorrhagic fever. The test, called the CDC DENV-1-4 Real Time RT PCR Assay, can be performed using equipment and supplies many public health laboratories already use to run  influenza Real-Time PCR assays.

The new test will help diagnose dengue within the first seven days after symptoms of the illness appear, which is when most people are likely to see a health care professional and the dengue virus is likely to be present in their blood. The test can identify all four dengue virus types. It is the first FDA-approved molecular test for dengue that detects evidence of the virus itself.

Dengue is caused by any of the four virus types, which are transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. Travelers returning from Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean are most at risk for contracting dengue. Symptoms of dengue include high fever, severe headache, severe pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash, mild bleeding involving mucous membranes, and easy bruising. There are no FDA-licensed vaccines available for this illness.

Diagnostic kits will be available for distribution beginning July 2, 2012.

For more information call (800) 232-4636 or visit www.cdc.gov/Dengue.

 

http://www.empr.com/diagnostic-test-approved-for-dengue/article/246795/

Predators, Prey and Lyme Disease

In Lyme Disease on June 23, 2012 at 6:25 pm

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/18/predators-prey-and-lyme-disease/

JUNE 18, 2012, 3:00 PM

Predators, Prey and Lyme Disease

By KELLY SLIVKA

Deer ticks are aptly named, in a sense; a Northeastern deer can carry over 1,000 of these ticks on its body. But as far as humans are concerned, the ticks might be more relevantly called mouse ticks. That’s because white-footed mice and other small mammals, not deer, are now known by scientists to be major carriers of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is spreading in the Northeast and the Midwest, and according to the national Centers for Disease Control, the number of annual cases over the past decade has been increasing. However, no one is quite sure why. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers tried to figure out what is driving the proliferation of Lyme disease in human populations by studying populations patterns in animals that interact with ticks. Their study suggests that large predators like coyotes and foxes that aren’t typically associated with Lyme disease transmission may have a big impact on the spread of the disease.

The life cycle of deer ticks depends on interactions in the entire ecosystem in which the ticks dwell, said Taal Levi, the study’s lead author, who did the research while a doctoral student at the University of California Santa Cruz and is now an ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York.

Ticks rely on “bloodmeals” from other animals to move through their three life stages: larva, nymph, and adult, Dr. Levi said. When the ticks hatch into larvae, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is not present.

For a tick larva to grow into a nymph, its next life stage, it needs blood. If the larva gets its blood meal from a mouse already carrying B. burgdorferi, the larva picks up the bacteria and becomes a carrier itself. It grows into a nymph and waits for its next host so it can get the blood meal necessary to grow into an adult tick. “Sometimes one of those nymphs doesn’t bite a small mammal but bites a person, and that’s where we get the disease,” Dr. Levi said.

While people used to blame deer for the spread of Lyme disease, Dr. Levi said that scientific evidence has indicated that deer probably aren’t significant transmitters of B. burgdorferi bacteria because their systems tend to quickly flush it out. But “some hosts, like white-footed mice, don’t clear it at all,” he said, which means the bacteria hang around long enough to be transmitted to ticks.

Dr. Levi hypothesized that because these small animals are prey, their abundance – and the spread of the Lyme disease bacteria within them – depends on the abundance of their predators. In the study, he and his colleagues did a computer analysis of known cases of Lyme disease and population data for red foxes — a key predator of rodents — in four states with a high prevalence of the disease: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Virginia. For good measure, they also compared deer populations with the tally of Lyme disease cases in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York.

The models showed higher numbers of Lyme disease cases in places where there are fewer foxes. They detected no significant relationship between numbers of deer and numbers of Lyme disease cases.

The researchers also ran computer programs comparing Lyme disease cases with coyote populations in the states where they modeled red fox populations. As coyotes have spread through the Midwest and Northeast, they have tended to displace foxes, Dr. Levi said.

But coyotes don’t generally pack themselves as tightly into an area as foxes, meaning that there tend to be fewer coyotes in an area than there were foxes. “If you replace fox habitat with coyote-occupied habitat, you lose a large number of predators, and those predators you’ve lost consumed a high number of mammals,” Dr. Levi said. So the models showed a significant relationship between high numbers of coyotes and high numbers of Lyme disease cases.

So: more coyotes equals fewer foxes, which means fewer predators, which means more small animals are running around that could be carrying the bacteria for Lyme disease. More bacteria is therefore transmitted to more ticks, which then transmit the bacteria to humans. It’s complicated.

In fact, it’s so complicated that Maria Diuk-Wasser, an epidemiologist at the Yale School for Public Health who was not involved in the study, said she was skeptical about the connections drawn between top predators and Lyme disease cases in the study.

Modeling patterns can show relationships between data, but not necessarily the causes of the relationships, she pointed out. For example, to say that there’s a correlation between the number of coyotes in an area and the number of cases of Lyme disease reported there is different than saying that a high number of coyotes in an area causes more cases of Lyme disease in humans.

“What they say is plausible,” Dr. Diuk-Wasser said. But she said she wanted to see more experimental studies performed out in the field to support the models. The models in the study use historical population data recorded by hunters and state wildlife management services rather than data collected specifically for the study.

Dr. Diuk-Wasser said that birds are also major carriers of Lyme disease bacteria and might be even more significant carriers than rodents because of the distances they can easily travel.

Given the health implications, “understanding the ecological mechanisms that drive Lyme disease in nature is very important,” she said.

Mosquito awareness week nationwide next week June 18, 2012

In DEET, Dengue Fever, Malaria, West Nile Virus on June 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

From June 24 to June 30, residents and business officials of Fort Myers Beach are asked to be more aware of the five D’s of protection during Mosquito Awareness Week.

The five D’s are: don’t go outdoors at Dusk and Dawn when mosquitos are most active; to protect against bites, Dress so your skin is covered with clothing; empty containers and Drain stagnant water; and protect bare skin and clothing with DEET mosquito repellent.

Controlling mosquitoes is important. Make sure to check standing water or any possible containers holding water. Try to check after rainstorms, for these potential hazards that will attract mosquitoes. Also, wear mosquito repellent and cover up with as much clothing as possible, especially between dusk and dawn, to help prevent being bitten by these pesky bugs.

http://www.fort-myers-beach-observer.com/page/content.detail/id/520788/Mosquito-awareness-week-nationwide-next-week.html?nav=5051

Mosquitoes mob Green Valley in Washington; residents organize to zap swarms

In DEET, West Nile Virus on June 23, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Workers and farming families in the Green Valley in Yakima County are trying to start a mosquito-control service area or join an existing district. They say the bugs are biting into worker safety, the bottom line and human health.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2018461432_mosquitoes18m.html

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