News / Health

US Promotes Active Surveillance in Global Fight Against Malaria

Children living in the Thai-Burma border come to a malaria clinic to get tested in Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi Province, October 26, 2012.
Children living in the Thai-Burma border come to a malaria clinic to get tested in Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi Province, October 26, 2012.
Jessica Berman
In the 13 years since the United Nations first marked April 25 as World Malaria Day, dramatic progress has been made in preventing, controlling and treating this deadly tropical disease.  Experts believe that with improved surveillance and more diligent treatment efforts, the disease could be soon be eradicated.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, is playing a major role in those malaria eradication efforts.

The CDC, headquartered in Atlanta, conducts scientific research and provides technical support to countries around the world on how to deal with malaria, a leading cause of illness and death in many of the countries affected by this mosquito-borne disease.

"The CDC has documented that in some of these communities, one out of every four medical visits of children was for malaria.  One out of every two units of blood used for transfusion was for malaria.  And in communities where they have implemented good control measures, we’ve seen essentially zero cases of malaria with good control and zero deaths.  So we know tremendous progress is possible,” said Tom Frieden, director of the CDC.

But in 10 countries with the highest incidence of malaria, experts say more resources are needed to prevent a resurgence of the illness.

Testifying before the U.S. Congress this week on his agency’s role in global disease eradication,  Frieden said the challenge in the fight against malaria, which in Africa alone kills one child every minute, is staying one step ahead of the malaria parasite.

Frieden cited the need for better public health surveillance, and urged Congress to fund better detection tools.  

He held up for lawmakers a diagnostic computer chip capable of separating and then sorting through the billions of "letters" in the malaria microbe’s genetic alphabet, giving doctors critical information in a mere four hours.

“There are actually more than 10 million individual wells on this chip.  We can take the fragments of DNA and with the supercomputer, put them back together like a jigsaw puzzle with tens of thousands of pieces to figure out where the connections are, whether it’s resistant, how it’s spreading and whether it’s becoming more virulent,” Frieden said.

Other challenges in the war on malaria, according to Frieden, are developing effective malaria vaccines and maintaining the integrity of artemisinin, the most effective drug available to treat malaria.  The parasite has developed resistance to other drugs that used to be considered certain cures for the disease.

But some 30 percent of malaria cases in Southeast Asia now show evidence of resistance to artemisinin.  Virtually every new drug in the pipeline, according to the CDC director, is either an artemisinin-related product or synthetic artemisinin, and if malaria treatment programs are not well-organized and controlled, the effectiveness of these new drugs also could be compromised.

So, Frieden told members of Congress, a critical weapon in the war on malaria is ensuring that artemisinin is used wisely so it continues to be effective.

“I think you can think of drug resistance and prevention of drug resistance as something we owe the world,  we owe our children.  If these antibiotics that we’ve been bequeathed by people who worked so hard to come up with them are preserved, they can be used to protect lives for many years going forward,” Frieden said.

Frieden added that eradicating the mosquito-borne illness by 2015 will require unflinching policy commitments and sustained funding by the international community.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid