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

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs