A new wave of malaria?


by Rumbold
13th August, 2009 at 9:13 pm    

Johann Hari highlights a worrying development in Cambodia:

“Up until this year, the world was making remarkable progress in whittling down this disease. Since the year 2000, seven of the worst-afflicted countries in sub-Saharan Africa have slashed malaria-deaths by 50 percent. It has a great knock0on effect too: for every £1 spent on malaria prevention, Africa gains £12 in economic growth, because people can work instead of lying sick and dying. It was a sign that aid, matched by good African government, can produce inspirational results.

But then something began to change – at first imperceptibly – in the forgotten forests of Western Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge held their last stand-off. The drug that is most effective at treating malaria is called artemisinin: it shocks the parasite out of your system and saves your life. But in South-East Asia, horrified doctors have discovered that the malaria parasite is becoming resistant to it. In a Darwinian arms race, it has begun to evolve a way to beat the treatment. It is taking twice as long to work – and soon it will have defeated the medicine altogether.”


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  1. pickles

    New blog post: A new wave of malaria? http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/5514




  1. douglas clark — on 14th August, 2009 at 7:56 am  

    Rumbold,

    It may defeat our best, current vaccines. But we will develop better ones. It is, indeed, a Darwinian war, but we have the brains and they don’t. I think it was this weeks New Scientist, which I don’t have to hand, that suggested there may be a mega solution to all of this.

  2. Shatterface — on 14th August, 2009 at 5:15 pm  

    Ironically, there’s a Darwinian answer to malaria: sickle-cell aenemia. Unfortunately if you possess two allels, that’ll shorten your life expectancy too.

  3. Don — on 14th August, 2009 at 5:29 pm  

    Douglas,

    Yeah, we have the brains and in evolutionary terms these have been our principle advantage, but may also be our ultimate undoing. Our capacity for intelligence does not always lead to intelligent choices. Elaborate and technological perhaps, but not always smart.

    Being the most intelligent creatures is ultimately no more of a guarantee of continued dominance than being the biggest. If something is going to ‘win’ the Darwinian war, my money is on the simplest.

    Slime rules.

  4. Halima — on 15th August, 2009 at 3:43 am  

    I saw GI Joe this weekend .. there’s a mad plot about a scientist gone potty or science unduly influencing politicians and the defence industry gone rampant… I really enjoyed it… the cleverest person in the movie got the world in trouble .

  5. Amrit — on 15th August, 2009 at 2:58 pm  

    From my A-level Biology experience, I’d say that sadly I agree with Don.

    Shatterface – you mean ‘alleles,’ right?

    And Rumbold – pleeeeeease replace that 0 with a -.

    Not to have a dig at you, Rumbold – but yah boo sucks to glibertarians, this just goes to show why science IS a public good.

  6. Rumbold — on 15th August, 2009 at 3:55 pm  

    Amrit:

    I think that most libertarians would agree that science is undersupplied by the market. And I can’t change the quote sadly, even though it is an error.

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