Veracity of Vicious Disease – Malaria
All over the world, people are agog for the affliction of deadly diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, etc. No doubt these are life killers; but this article clearly demonstrates the veracity of the devastating mosquito-borne disease, namely Malaria. Everyone in the world starting from eminent doctors to charitable organizations tried their level best to eradicate this disease, but no one so far has succeeded to uproot the disease, and millions of people yet die of Malaria. Sometimes, they cannot resist the brunt of this disease and ultimately succumb to death. A proverb says, “There are thousand ways to skin a cat.” In similar way, researches rephrase this for mosquitoes.
Malaria is a major public health problem in more than 90 countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. It has been a scourge for humankind for thousands of years and it remains one today. However, the real causes of malaria became known to the world only in the 19th century when Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran discovered malaria parasites while examining blood from soldiers. He found crescent-shaped bodies in almost the majority of soldiers suffering from fever and fatigue. But Ronals Ross, a British officer, was the first to establish that mosquitoes are the vectors of malaria parasites to the human body.
First, let’s clear up a common misconception. Mosquitoes don’t cause malaria – they only transmit the disease. Malaria is caused by an organism whose life cycle is dependent on the mosquito. When a mosquito bites a person who has malaria, it ingests a small amount of that person’s blood, which contains the malaria-causing protozoan plasmodia. The microorganism then continues its lifecycle within the gut of the mosquito. When the mosquito bites an uninfected person, the developed protozoan enters that new person through the mosquito’s saliva, and a new case of malaria is born. While all malaria is serious, new world malarias tend to kill you less quickly, which allows more time for the disease to be diagnosed and treated. Nearly five decades ago, it was thought that we had conquered the war against this dreadful disease of Malaria. Many diagnostic approaches in the form of medicines like quinine, chloroquinine, etc., were tried to get rid of the malaria parasites. The medication primarily used to treat malaria is a form of quinine that’s derived from the bark of the quinine tree which is found in South America by two Frenchmen. Later Americans discovered Chloroquinine as a better option to replace quinine. Many other drugs including the molecule dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, etc., invented by scientists remain ineffective to eliminate the malaria. Even modern drugs cannot do well to fight parasites; instead the parasites become immune to the drugs because of their fast generation time. In the same way DDT, the short form of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, also remains futile to prevent the mosquitoes’ ever-increasing growth. Currently more than 515,000,000 people around the world are infected with malaria each year. Of these, between 1,000,000 and 3,000,000 people die from the disease each year. Malaria is one of the most prevalent and underfunded diseases in the world; it is only now beginning to receive the attention like other diseases that aren’t nearly as costly in terms of human lives and suffering. When you understand the crucial role that mosquitoes play in the spread of this devastating disease, controlling and eliminating mosquitoes take on a new urgency, both in terms of the economic advantages posed by its elimination and the reduction in all-around human suffering.
Dr Brian Foy of Colorado State University from his experiments asserts that the malaria parasite usually takes two weeks to grow in the mosquito body. When a female Anopheles takes a blood meal on a malaria-infected human body, it draws out parasites with it. After 10-18 days, the parasites are so grown in the mosquito body that they are available in the salivary gland of the mosquito. Such heavily infected female Anopheles mosquito further injects parasite into another human body through a bite, and this cycle goes on moving continuously. Initially, the malaria parasites grow and multiply in the human liver cells; and then evade the red blood cells to destroy them. Usual symptoms of malaria are fever and flu-like illnesses such as aches and tiredness, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
World Health Organization (WHO) / Malinda Gates Foundation’s Contribution
WHO, under the stewardship of Mrs Brundtland campaigned and implemented several clinical programmes to demolish the mosquito bred completely. The programmes consisted of actions like supply of better drugs and vaccines to the malaria victims through hospitals, opening diagnostic centres, conducting health awareness programmes among people, appeal for cleanliness of surroundings, etc. Apart from the above, the science of molecular biology and genetic engineering is put to use. Biologists even tried to sterile female mosquitoes and release them with male mosquitoes to prevent further spreading of malaria, but this could also not produce effective results in the end. In fact, the mosquito bred did not stop to increase. Ultimately, all the efforts of Mrs. Brundtland went in vain, as the malaria carrying mosquitoes went stronger even against the surefire insecticides invented.
The legendary IT wizard Bill Gates and his charitable organization The Melinda Gates Foundation have started supporting the mosquito demolition activities around the world. They also spend billions of dollars for elimination of HIV-AIDS through introduction of various types of drugs, vaccines and implementation of various health programmes. They feel that such health programmes should also contain eradication of malaria, availing safe drinking water and maintaining the ecological balance for the wellbeing and development of society. This foundation is unique in its nature as it provides financial aid to researchers to undertake various clinical researches in order to win over this perennial problem. The fight against malaria achieves the first place in the list of their agenda. Their whole-hearted efforts produce innovative ideas and actions to free the humankind from the trap of Malaria.
Ways to Eliminate Malaria and Mosquito
There are two ways to focus on the problem of malaria. The first one is to “‘rain the swamps’, or more specifically, to eliminate the habitats where mosquitoes could live and breed. The second approach, the one being currently used in Africa, is to treat infected patients and to work to develop a vaccine that will be effective against the disease. The geopolitical environment in Africa makes the elimination of breeding grounds a difficult and unwieldy task, which is why this alternate approach is being used.
Dr Foy focuses on the transmitting time of parasite from one host to another to find a way out to kill the disease malaria from its primitive stage. He concluded with an idea from the observation of another vicious disease River Blindness and it is the medicines used in prevention of that disease. It occurred by parasite worms injected by tsetse fly generally found in the African continent. A drug named Ivermectin has been very successful in destroying the parasites of tsetse. The credit for this medicine goes to the magnanimity of The Carter Foundation, a charitable organization established by Mr Jimmy Carter. Today African countries who were predominantly suffering from this disease are able to conquer it because of a sustained campaign of free distribution of this drug throughout the region. Dr Foy realized that Ivermectin is powerful to destroy parasites of both malaria as well as river blindness. People take this drug by oral application, which is easily mixed with blood and is rendered toxic for tsetse. When the tsetse fly takes a blood meal on a person, it dies due to toxins available in the human blood absorbed from Ivermectin. Dr Foy suggests the same kind of drug and its application to cure as well as to prevent malaria.
Some Interesting Information about Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes are annoying, but when you really start to study them, you can find out some surprisingly interesting things about them. The following is a roundup of some of the most uncommon bits of knowledge about a very common pest:
Male mosquitoes don’t bite people – only the females do. When a female mosquito needs blood to produce her eggs, humans are not her first choice for what is gruesomely called a ‘blood meal’ – most female mosquitoes would rather bite a cow, horse, or a small mammal such as a dog or squirrel. In addition, some mosquitoes only bite birds, reptiles or amphibians for their blood meal. Mosquitoes can fly at a speed of one mile per hour. Most mosquitoes live only about two to three weeks, although some species can live as long as six months. Males of the species generally live a shorter period of time than the females. Mosquitoes from salt marshes have been known to fly up to 40 miles from their breeding location in search of food.
Diseases carried by mosquitoes include malaria, the West Nile Virus, dog heartworm, equine encephalitis, dengue and yellow fever. There is no evidence that mosquitoes can transmit the HIV virus or AIDS. As stated above, more than one million people die each year from mosquito-borne diseases just because of lack of knowledge and their carelessness towards primary precautions. That itchy, red mosquito bite is actually a localized allergic reaction to mosquito saliva.
While researchers have some clues as to what attracts mosquitoes to humans, they still have not figured out exactly why mosquitoes seem to target some people more than others. The more carbon dioxide and lactic acid you produce, the more likely you are to attract a mosquito. Overweight people and very active or fidgety people produce more carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Mosquitoes usually prefer to bite women over men. They may not be gentlemen, but even mosquitoes prefer blondes, biting them more frequently than brunettes. Mosquitoes are very attracted to the smell of stinky feet and Limburger cheese. One study found that mosquitoes were more active during a full moon than during other parts of the lunar cycle. Dark clothing seems to attract.
The most effective mosquito repellent is still DEET, which was developed more than 50 years ago. Yellow light bulbs do not repel mosquitoes – they just don’t attract mosquitoes like brighter, hotter incandescent light does. Mosquitoes seldom bite when there is a light breeze blowing. That means that if you keep the air moving on your outside porch or deck, you might get fewer mosquito bites. Electronic bug zapper lights do not do a good job of killing mosquitoes, but they do an excellent job of killing the bugs that songbirds like to eat. Neither bats nor birds are especially effective at reducing mosquito populations, though both will eat mosquitoes from time to time if they come across them.
Common Precautionary Measure to Escape Malaria
From the general observations, I have seen that people tend to be cautious about the animals and beasts that cause apparent harm, but not about the tiny insect like mosquito, which in fact, causes much more damages to our health. Being health-conscious people, we should follow the following tips:
Maintain cleanliness of surroundings, remove dirty water-pits where mosquitoes breed and develop usually;
Use mosquito vaporizer / liquids and sprinkle DDT at the places vulnerable to mosquito generation;
Hiding places for mosquitoes are generally untouched corners of house, bathrooms and toilets which should be cleaned and sprinkled with fragrant pesticide;
Mosquitoes are attracted to darkness and black colour and so we may opt for white coloured home / house furnishing items wherever practical and possible, for example, curtains on doors & windows, tapestry on sofa cover and also maintain a lustrous light around us at the night time;
Keep the doors and windows shut as soon as the sun sets, since the mosquitoes mostly enter the house during this time;
Cover your doors and windows with mosquito nets to close their entryways;
We may also take, in consultation with doctor, primary medicines as a precautionary step, especially when the monsoon is just gone away and the mosquito generation is very high.
Malaria affects everyone irrespective of age and status quo of health. Though only a few mosquitoes are perpetrators, we should not be negligent towards the preventive measures as stated above. After all, prevention is better than cure.