Researchers say they found malaria’s origin; In chimps. Malaria has been a mass murderer in Africa for thousands of years, with 500 million infected, and between 1 million and 3 million deaths annually!
This makes it one of the world’s most deadly diseases, only comparable to HIV / AIDS. And as with HIV, Africa is the most exposed continent. This is a tragedy every day for the people who live in Africa. Malaria is especially bad because a large share of it’s victims are young children. So what does this new discovery change?
In the closest future, it will change nothing at all for the people harmed by malaria. The new discovery, made by Nathan Wolfe, is that Malaria was transmitted from chimpanzees to humans several thousand years ago. And we still haven’t found a real vaccine against the disease. It can be treated, but for the people who own nothing from before, the right treatment is often a dream that will never come true. And that is what Wolfe calls “one of the biggest public health failures of our time”. I guess I have to agree with him.
However, Wolfe seemed very excited and proud of his new discovery, but I am not as impressed as he might wish I would be. CNN talked to a couple of other scientists who specialized in the same field, and they did not make me believe that this new knowledge can lead the way to a working vaccine. The huge amounts of money that are spent on research for a Malaria vaccine have still not brought us much more than the antibiotics we already had from before. I am all for research on Malaria, by all means, a vaccine would literally change the world. But maybe our failed efforts should remind us that there is one very simple way to prevent a large share of these unnecessary deaths: more free mosquito-nets and more free medicine for treatments.
The cost of a mosquito-net for each child in Africa is probably just a tiny fraction of the several hundred million dollars that are spent each year on vaccine research. This leads me to think that we should start by providing the most basic, simple and cost efficient mosquito-net-solution to this tragedy.
Spend more and get more
When the infrastructure is established, the cost of providing mosquito-nets will be very low, and we can afford spending the billions on research. And even though the amount spent on malaria research is enormous compared to the amount spent on mosquito-nets, it is not much compared to the human cost of this disease. I totally agree that there are good reasons to expand the spending on malaria research, but first put the money where we know they work! I am just asking why we can’t start by providing the mosquito-nets we know will work?
But mosquito-nets will make no man rich. A malaria vaccine will certainly do.