Archive for October, 2007

Suriname has already hit malaria MDG

The country of Suriname in northern South America has already exceeded its 2015 Millennium Development Goal target for the reduction of malaria.

Leopoldo Villegas, consultant for the Global Fund Malaria Program in Suriname, presented a poster on the success at the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene conference in London last week (14 September).

Part of Millennium Development Goal six is to halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria.

Villegas said that rates of malaria in Suriname fell by 70 per cent between 2001 and 2006, and there have only been 700 cases of malaria this year – a 90 per cent reduction since 2001.

Suriname’s malaria decline is the result of an intensive campaign that began in 2005, Villegas said.

“We have the whole population of the interior of Suriname covered with insecticide-treated nets, we have passive case detection through the primary healthcare system and we have active case detection – so we don’t wait for patients to come to us, we look for them, we have mobile teams,” said Villegas.

These measures are complemented by insecticide spraying in high-risk areas, a comprehensive public awareness campaign and good detection systems for possible epidemics.

“When we had a lot of malaria our epidemic detection was at 70 or 200 cases. Now the epidemic starts when you have three cases reported,” he said.

“If three cases are coming from the same place we automatically activate a team who go there and have a mass screening of people to see who have parasites.”

Chris Curtis, professor of entomology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said Suriname’s progress was excellent, but warned the campaign must be maintained.

“They can’t afford to relax – the parasites and the mosquitoes are still there and if they do relax then there is the risk that eventually it will come back,” he told SciDev.Net.

He said the need for constant vigilance was demonstrated by the situation in neighbouring French Guyana.

“I think now French Guyana has the worst malaria rates in South America, which is a great shame because in the late 1940s they eradicated malaria in the inhabited north using DDT house spraying,” he said.

Villegas said Suriname’s malaria prevention measures have reduced the number of cases in French Guiana, and there are plans to replicate efforts in other South American countries.

“We’re now trying to put down all the data and start publishing to show that we can work in border areas between two governments, it doesn’t need to be one side,” he said.

Read this story on the Science and Development Network.

October 9, 2007 at 9:24 pm Leave a comment

Antimalarials ‘give children an edge’ at school

Preventative malaria treatment could improve schoolchildren’s performance in endemic areas, a study suggests.

The research was presented at the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine’s conference in London, United Kingdom, last week (14 September).

Benson Estambale, director of the Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, investigated whether giving preventative antimalarial drugs to primary schoolchildren improved their educational performance.

More than 6000 students from 30 schools in the Bondo district of West Kenya were administered antimalarial drugs three times in 2005–2006.

“[Preventative treatment] is very much recommended for pregnant women and has been tried in infants and young children, but nothing had been done in children over five years of age,” Estambale said.

“We found that quite a number of people wanted to have their children treated for malaria, because they said that malaria was causing a lot of absenteeism in school and the children were coming home when they had fever.”

Treatment cut the students’ risk of malaria parasite infection by more than a third, as well as reducing anaemia. Researchers found that treated children performed better in cognitive tests and also did slightly better in school exams.

Previous studies of malaria-infected regions indicate that up to 50 per cent of all preventable absenteeism in schools is due to malaria, and the research team found that a number of people wanted to have their children treated for malaria because of absenteeism, Estambale told delegates.

Estembale said the Kenyan Ministry of Education had expressed interest in the study and the researchers hope it could lead to the introduction of routine preventative therapy for schoolchildren, as the government has done with de-worming.

“De-worming has become official policy in the country and school health programs are now de-worming the children twice in a year to remove all the intestinal worms that could impact negatively on children’s performance in schools,” Estambale said.

Nick White, head of tropical medicine at Mahidol University in Thailand and a WHO advisor, said the results were exciting but future research should further examine the exact relationship between drug efficacy and educational performance, and whether the findings applied in other malaria-affected regions.

Nick White, head of tropical medicine at Mahidol University in Thailand and a WHO advisor, said the results were exciting but future research should further examine the exact relationship between drug efficacy and educational performance, and whether the findings applied in other malaria-affected regions.

Further studies are planned for Kenya and Senegal, but Estambale also hopes to hear from other potential partners.

“We would like to get partnerships even in Asia as well as South America, because children are children, and we know that in malaria-endemic areas, although quite a number of them are semi-immune, they continue having malaria impacting negatively on educational performance,” he said.

Read this story on the Science and Development Network.

October 5, 2007 at 1:09 pm Leave a comment

How to get more women in science, engineering and technology

Entrepreneurial women in science, engineering and technology in the East of England talk about what they think needs to happen to get more women in these industries.

This podcast is part of a series. You can listen to this episode, or read the transcript.

October 5, 2007 at 12:59 pm Leave a comment

Careers in technology enterprise

Entrepreneurial women in technology in the East of England talk about their experiences.

This podcast is part of a series. You can listen to this episode, or read the transcript.

October 5, 2007 at 12:44 pm Leave a comment


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