Jeremy Laurance: Eradicating this biblical plague is becoming possible

Share
Related Topics

It looks ingenious. If you can't eradicate malaria in humans, why not do so in mosquitoes? It would accomplish a goal of which scientists hardly dared dream: a malaria-free world.

The achievement of Michael Riehle and his team at the University of Arizona is impressive. But by their own admission, they have done the easy bit – create a genetically modified mosquito that cannot transmit malaria.

To help with controlling the disease, the GM mosquito must first be proved safe for release into the wild and, second, must be given some advantage that renders it superior to natural populations so it can drive them out. That is much harder to do.

Despite these caveats, and the dreadful toll malaria still exacts, there are reasons to celebrate. Action against malaria – spraying of insecticide, distribution of bed nets and use of anti-malarial drugs – has increased dramatically in the last decade as global funding has expanded 50-fold to over $5bn in 2009. In coastal areas of Kenya, cases of severe malaria in children have fallen by 90 per cent in five years. Similar falls have been reported from other locations.

In certain islands in the Philippines, malaria has been eliminated. Mexico is said to be close to eradication, countries in South America are moving in the same direction and Morocco is expected to announce the end of the disease soon.

Sub-Saharan Africa, which bears 70 per cent of the disease burden, presents a much tougher challenge. But in the global malaria community – where gloom prevailed a decade ago – the buzzword now is elimination. As The Lancet noted this month, "previously cautious malariologists, released from a 40-year collective depression... have been invigorated".

Talk of elimination may be premature – the funds required to chase down the last few cases of a disease are several orders of magnitude higher than those needed to control it – as the polio eradication campaign has proved. But that we can envisage the end of a disease that still kills in biblical proportions is itself a remarkable advance.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A royal serving the nation

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to the start of the European Council Summit in Brussels last month  

David Cameron talks big but is waving a small stick at the Russian bear

Kim Sengupta
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn