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Drop In African Malaria Rates Attributed To Low-Tech Mosquito Net

Drop In African Malaria Rates Attributed To Low-Tech Mosquito Net

A simple, low-tech preventative measure of insecticide-treated bed nets helped prevent 663 million cases of malaria in Africa from 2000 to 2015, according to a new report by Oxford University researchers.

The overall rate of malaria infections in Africa has fallen by 50 percent since 2000 — largely the result of bed nets, Gizmodo reports.

One billion mosquito nets have been distributed in Africa since 2000, according to 1billionnets.org.

Mosquito nets are now a billion-­dollar industry, with hundreds of millions of insecticide ­treated nets passed out in recent years, and many more on their way, NYTimes reported in January.

Clearly, many of the nets are being used for their intended purpose but many are not.

Some people don’t use the mosquito nets for mosquitoes. They use them to fish, said Isabel Marques da Silva, a marine biologist at Universidade Lúrio in Mozambique. “That’s why the incidence for malaria here is so high.”

Along with treated bed nets, other low-tech weapons against malaria that have helped prevent transmission of the mosquito-borne disease include Artemisinin-based combination therapy and insecticide sprays in homes, according to Malaria Atlas Project, which published its findings this week in the journal, Nature.

Artemisinin is a group of drugs now considered standard treatment worldwide for malaria. Artemisinin comes from the sweet wormwood plant, a herb used in Chinese traditional medicine.

The distribution of 1 billion insecticide-treated bed nets contributed to 68 percent of the reduction of malaria cases in Africa in a 15-year period, researchers said.


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Artemisinin-based combination therapy is credited with 22 percent of the reduction in malaria rates over the 15 years and 10 percent of the reduction is attributed to insecticide sprays in homes, according to a report in StarMineNews.

The research combined a database of 30,000 malaria field surveys in sub-Saharan Africa with models of how interventions have been deployed across the continent.

“All told, very simple interventions have been shown to have a massive effect,” Gizmodo reported.

“We’ve shown these cheap and effective control measures have made a huge dent in African malaria but this is no time for triumphalism – what’s needed now is a redoubling of efforts,” said Peter Gething, lead researcher of the study, in a press release.

Malaria still claims the lives of 300,000 children in Africa each year, he said. “Despite the huge improvements, access to nets, spraying and drugs is still way below where it needs to be.”

 

One of the most common insecticides used by the mosquito net industry is permethrin, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” when consumed orally, NYTimes reports. The E.P.A. also says permethrin is highly toxic to fish.

World Health Organization and UNICEF say that the malaria threat is far from over with about 214 million new cases this year so far and around 438,000 deaths.

An estimated 80 percent of malaria cases and 78 percent of deaths in 2015 came from sub-Saharan Africa, according to StarMineNews.