This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Good and Bad News About Fighting Malaria

First the good news: Researchers in the UK and US have developed a genetically-modified (GM) mosquito which, when released in the wild, may be able to change the genetic structure of mosquitos in just a few generations in a way that could reduce the risk that they would spread the malaria parasite.

Research groups have already created "malaria-resistant mosquitoes" using techniques such as introducing genes to disrupt the malaria parasite's development.
The research, however, has a great challenge - getting those genes to spread from the genetically-modified mosquitoes to the vast number of wild insects across the globe.
Unless the gene gives the mosquito an advantage, the gene will likely disappear.
Scientists at Imperial College London and the University of Washington, in Seattle, believe they have found a solution.
Professor Andrea Crisanti, from the department of life sciences at Imperial College London, said: "This is an exciting technological development, one which I hope will pave the way for solutions to many global health problems.
He believes it could be possible to introduce genes which will make the mosquito target animals rather than humans, stop the parasite from multiplying in the insect or produce all male offspring which do not transmit malaria.
Professor Janet Hemingway, from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said the work was an "exciting breakthrough".
Now, the bad news, which helps to illustrate why the good news is so important:
A global health fund believes millions of dollars worth of its donated malaria drugs have been stolen in recent years, vastly exceeding the levels of theft previously suspected, according to confidential documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The internal investigation by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria comes two months into a new anti-corruption program that the fund launched after an AP report detailing fraud in their grants attracted intense scrutiny from donors.
Malaria infects more than 250 million people every year, killing about 1 million, the vast majority of whom are children in Africa. Because there is a huge demand for malaria drugs, which are widely available at pharmacies and on private markets, they are easier to sell than drugs for other diseases like AIDS, which are mainly handed out at health clinics.

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