Monday, October 31, 2005

Saving people from death by Malaria

There is increased interest in fighting malaria, which kills about 1,000,000 people per year, mostly in Africa. The "Kill Malarial Mosquitoes Now" coalition insists, "We will fight furiously for every human life now hanging in the balance as a function of current, myopic, errant and unconscionable U.S. malaria control policies." And the weapon of choice is the old one that we stopped using: DDT. Marvin Olasky reports at Town Hall
The KMMN coalition says that none of that money goes for the most effective weapon: the insecticide DDT, which eradicated malaria in Europe and the United States more than half a century ago, but was banned in the United States in 1972 because of its supposed environmental effects. Soon, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Agency for International Development cut out DDT from its programs. Author-physician Michael Crichton described the results of the DDT ban this way: "It has killed more people than Hitler." That's because trying to stop every human-stinging mosquito is a dead man's game. They will find a way in. And during the three decades since DDT disappeared from the disease-fighting weapon rack, we've learned that the insecticide does not thin birds' eggshells dangerously or cause cancer among humans. Infants nursing when there's been heavy DDT spraying may gain weight a little more slowly than others, but that's a lot better than dying from malaria.
But Bill Gates is taking a different route with $258 million in grants announced today - Puget Sound Business Journal. Not the field-proven DDT, but new approaches:
The biggest of the three grants, $107.6 million, goes to Seattle-based Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) to develop a vaccine for malaria, which kills an estimated 2,000 African children a day. PATH's Malaria Vaccine Initiative will work with Belgium-based GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, a unit of pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline Inc., to test vaccine candidates. The other two grants go to Geneva, Switzerland-based nonprofit Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC). The IVCC, led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, will use the money to fast track development of insecticides and other mosquito control methods.
Let's do both - use the proven insect killer and look for new methods. Good work.