Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] Combining insecticide spraying and bed nets no more protective against malaria than nets alone — ScienceDaily

Combining insecticide spraying and bed nets no more protective against malaria than nets alone — ScienceDaily.

Niger distribution malaria nets 20apr06 01

Niger distribution malaria nets 20apr06 01 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 5 December 2014 Lancet press release

The combined use of spraying insecticide inside homes and insecticide-treated bed nets is no better at protecting children against malaria than using bed nets alone, a study in The Gambia suggests. The findings, published in The Lancet, should encourage donors to invest their limited resources in additional bed nets, the more cost-effective solution to tackling malaria*.


Related article
Malaria death rate halved, but many still lack nets – health – 09 December 2014 – New Scientist

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Friendly bacteria are protective against malaria

From the 4 December 2014 ScienceDaily article

Date: December 4, 2014
Source: Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia
In a breakthrough study, a research team discovered that specific bacterial components in the human gut microbiota can trigger a natural defense mechanism that is highly protective against malaria transmission. It is estimated that 3.4 billion people are at risk of contracting malaria and WHO data from 2012 reveal that about 460,000 African children died from malaria before reaching their fifth birthday. The present study argues that if one can induce the production of antibodies against alpha-gal in those children one may be able to revert these grim numbers.
Over the past few years, the scientific community became aware that humans live under a continuous symbiotic relationship with a vast community of bacteria and other microbes that reside in the gut. These microbes, know as the gut microbiota, do not necessarily cause disease to humans and instead can influence a variety of physiologic functions that are essential to maintain health. Some of these microbes, including specific strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli) that are usual inhabitant of the human gut, express on their surface sugar molecules (known as carbohydrates or glycans). These glycans can be recognized by the human immune system, which results in the production of high levels of circulating natural antibodies in adult individuals. It has been speculated that natural antibodies directed against sugar molecules expressed by the microbiota may also recognize perhaps similar sugar molecules expressed by pathogens, that is, parasites that can cause diseases in humans.
It was well established before these studies, that onlya fraction of all adultindividuals thatare confronted to the bite of mosquitoes in endemic areas of malaria do become infected by the Plasmodium parasite and eventually go on to contract malaria. This argued that adults might have a natural defense mechanism against malaria transmission, which is in sharp contrast with children under 3-5 years old that are much more susceptible to contract malaria. When analyzingindividuals from an endemic area of malaria in Mali,in collaboration with a research team lead by Peter D. Crompton at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Maryland; USA) and at the University of Sciences, Techniques and Technologies of Bamako (Bamako, Mali), the research team lead by Miguel Soares established that thoseindividuals that have the lowest levels of circulating anti-alpha-gal antibodies are also those that are the most susceptible to contract malaria. In contrast those individuals that have the highest levels of circulating anti-alpha-gal antibodies are less susceptibleto be infected and to develop malaria. They conclude thatthe reason why young infants are so susceptible to contract malaria is probably due to the fact that they have not yet generatedsufficient levels of circulating natural antibodies directed against the alpha-gal sugar molecule….

Miguel Soares adds: “We observed that children under 3 years old do not have sufficient levels of circulating anti-alpha-gal antibodies, which might be one of the reasons for their exquisite susceptibility to malaria. One of the beauties of the protective mechanism we just discovered is that it can be induced via a standard vaccination protocol, leading to the production of high levels of anti-alpha-gal antibodies that bind and kill the Plasmodium parasite. If we can vaccinate these young children against alpha-gal, many lives might be saved.”

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] A gut bacterium that attacks dengue and malaria pathogens and their mosquito vectors — ScienceDaily


A gut bacterium that attacks dengue and malaria pathogens and their mosquito vectors — ScienceDaily.

From the 23 October 2014 article

Just like those of humans, insect guts are full of microbes, and the microbiota can influence the insect’s ability to transmit diseases. A new study reports that a bacterium isolated from the gut of an Aedes mosquito can reduce infection of mosquitoes by malaria parasites and dengue virus. The bacterium can also directly inhibit these pathogens in the test tube, and shorten the life span of the mosquitoes that transmit both diseases.



Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by PLOS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Jose Luis Ramirez, Sarah M. Short, Ana C. Bahia, Raul G. Saraiva, Yuemei Dong, Seokyoung Kang, Abhai Tripathi, Godfree Mlambo, George Dimopoulos. Chromobacterium Csp_P Reduces Malaria and Dengue Infection in Vector Mosquitoes and Has Entomopathogenic and In Vitro Anti-pathogen Activities. Plos Pathogens, October 23, 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004398

October 24, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How a little patch could free you from pesky mosquitoes and fight malaria


Mosquito season is in full swing, but new patch wants to save you from an itchy, scratchy summer – and help conquer malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses in the developing world.

Backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and based on technology developed at the University of California at Riverside, the Kite Patch is a small square sticker the size of a nicotine patch that attaches to clothing. It claims to makes humans “invisible” to mosquitoes for 48 hours by blocking mosquitoes’ ability to detect carbon dioxide, which is their primary way of finding people to feast on. (If you want more details on how mosquitoes choose their victims, my colleague Barb Darrow recently wrote a little post on the topic.)

glovetestAnd, it’s all non-toxic: the company says the its active ingredients are considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, meaning…

View original post 244 more words

July 19, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

Curbing Malaria Spread With Cell Phone Data

From the 14 October 2012 Medical News Today article 


Cell phone records may be a valuable source of data that if used correctly, could help control and eliminate malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, researchers from the USA and Kenya reported in the journal Science.

Even though malaria-carrying mosquitoes do not fly very far, the disease still manages to spread over very long distances. Infected humans can carry malaria to faraway places rapidly; as fast as a plane or car can take them. A significant percentage of infected humans have no symptoms; they can unwittingly be carrying the parasite during their travels and infecting hundreds of other people.

Humans do not infect other humans directly. An infected human may arrive to a new area and be bitten by an malaria-free mosquito. The human infects that mosquito. The mosquito, now infected, bites another person – and the disease spreads on and on…..

Malaria’s ability to spread rapidly makes it a challenging infection to eliminate, especially in parts of the world with limited resources for health care. Sub-Saharan Africa, where Malaria is endemic, is a huge area with very limited resources.

Of the one million people who die from malaria each year globally, 90% are children under five years of age in sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, Seattle, USA, earlier this year revealed thatmalaria incidence and mortality globally was much higher than experts had thought. The disease threatens 3 billion people around the world.

A team of researchers in Kenya has demonstrated how cell phone records may be utilized to identify regions that should be targeted in order to optimize malaria control and elimination efforts…

English: Life cycle of malaria, NIH, http://hi...

English: Life cycle of malaria, NIH, not very many people have lived through Malaria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



October 15, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

Fighting Malaria By Modifying Friendly Bacteria In Mosquito Gut

Malaria is preventable and curable

Malaria is preventable and curable (Photo credit: Novartis AG)

This method of malarial control is not without controversy***, especially among folks who are against genetic engineering of any kind.

Back in 1980-81 I came down with malaria four times in Liberia where I served as a Peace Corps volunteer. Each time I came down with it on a Tuesday after forgetting to take my weekly preventative (Chloroquine) on Sunday. Thankfully each time it was similar to a mild flu bug and I was back at work the next day.

Since then, Chloroquine is ineffective in Liberia. The malarial strains are much more virulent. Back in the early 80’s the virulent malarial strains in Africa were mostly in East Africa.

From the 17 July 2012 article at Medical News today

By genetically modifying gut bacteria in the malaria mosquito, US researchers have found a potentially powerful way to fight malaria. The modified “friendly” bacteria, which live in the midgut of the mosquito alongside the malaria parasite, produce toxins that are deadly to the parasite but do not harm humans or mosquitoes…

..”In the past, we worked to genetically modify the mosquito to resist malaria, but genetic modification of bacteria is a simpler approach.”..

…The battle against malaria has to be fought on a number of fronts: insect repellent and bed nets can help prevent transmission from mosquitoes to humans, but work like that of Jacobs-Lorena and colleagues helps to find ways to control malaria one step earlier by eliminating infection within the mosquito itself.

In May 2011, another team from Johns Hopkins University reported identifying a class of naturally occurring bacteria that can strongly inhibit malaria parasites in mosquitoes. They found the presence of Enterobacter reduced various developmental stages of P. falciparum, including the stage that is transmitted to humans through a mosquito bite, were reduced by 98 to 99%….

Related Resources


  • the Organic Review: GM Exterminators Inserted into Intestines to Stop Malaria
    “Those mosquitos that contained genetically modified gut bacteria, alternative to the actual GM mosquitos, have been proven to conquer Plasmodium bacterium in both human and rodent populations by nearly 100%. The question that remains is if such genetic modifications can cause other negative affects to healthy functioning parts or other bacteria in the mosquitos or is spread to other animals or humans. Results after further studying could possibly lead to new circumstances.” 

July 18, 2012 Posted by | environmental health | , , | Leave a comment

Molecular Secrets of Ancient Chinese Herbal Remedy Discovered [& related Alternative Medicine Resources]

For roughly two thousand years, Chinese herbalists have treated Malaria using a root extract, commonly known as Chang Shan, from a type of hydrangea that grows in Tibet and Nepal. More recent studies suggest that halofuginone, a compound derived from this extract’s bioactive ingredient, could be used to treat many autoimmune disorders as well. Now, researchers from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine have discovered the molecular secrets behind this herbal extract’s power.

It turns out that halofuginone (HF) triggers a stress-response pathway that blocks the development of a harmful class of immune cells, called Th17 cells, which have been implicated in many autoimmune disorders.

“HF prevents the autoimmune response without dampening immunity altogether,” said Malcolm Whitman, a professor of developmental biology at Harvard School of Dental Medicine and senior author on the new study. “This compound could inspire novel therapeutic approaches to a variety of autoimmune disorders.”

“This study is an exciting example of how solving the molecular mechanism of traditional herbal medicine can lead both to new insights into physiological regulation and to novel approaches to the treatment of disease,” said Tracy Keller, an instructor in Whitman’s lab and the first author on the paper….

Related General Resources for Complementary/Alternative/Integrative Medicine

  • MEDLINE plus: Alternative Medicine Trusted health information links from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Includes basic information, news, organizations, specific conditions, multimedia, financial issues, and more
  • Bandolier: Evidenced Based Thinking about Healthcare – Alternative Medicine
    The site brings together the best evidence available about complementary and alternative therapies for consumers and professionals. It contains stories, systematic reviews and meta-analyses of complementary and alternative therapies with abstracts.
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
    NCCAM is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals.




February 15, 2012 Posted by | Finding Aids/Directories, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, Peace Corps Mobilize Against Malaria In Africa

Countries which have regions where malaria is ...

Image via Wikipedia

From the 27 April 2011 Medical News Today article

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams and U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, announced an enhanced collaborative effort to reduce the burden ofmalaria in Africa.

Peace Corps is collaborating with the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), led by USAID and implemented together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to help African governments further reduce the burden of malaria in 14 countries across sub-Saharan African where Peace Corps and PMI have a presence. ..

…Peace Corps volunteers demonstrate a spirit of sacrifice, dedication and knowledge of the local setting that comes from living with and serving local populations,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “Volunteers’ access and cultural sensitivity combined with PMI’s expert guidance presents unique opportunities to reach people in rural Africa with malaria interventions.”

Peace Corps and PMI will work with the respective National Malaria Control Programs to develop a clear set of activities and a scope of work for the Malaria PCVs. Activities in which PCVs could undertake includes:

– Assisting with national malaria bednet distribution campaigns;

– Helping support implementation of a malaria intervention, such as indoor residual spraying, or assisting with training activities;

– Designing and conducting behavior change communication efforts, including working with community groups and local organizations;

– Advising on monitoring, evaluation and surveillance, including assistance with analysis and mapping of malaria data; and

– Participating with operations research activities.

Editor’s Note:  I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, West Africa from 1980-81. At that time the malarial strains in West Africa were not as virulent as they are today. Three times I forgot to take my weekly anti-malarial. Sure enough, two days later I came down with a mild case of malaria…but was back teaching the next day.

Peace Corps celebrates 50 years of service to our country and the world this year.
For more information about the Peace Corps, go to 

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

How Common Immune Booster Works: Research May Lead to New and Improved Vaccines

How Common Immune Booster Works: Research May Lead to New and Improved Vaccines

From the March 14 2011 Science Daily news item

ScienceDaily (Mar. 14, 2011) — Alum is an adjuvant (immune booster) used in many common vaccines, and Canadian researchers have now discovered how it works. The research by scientists from the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine is published in the March 13 online edition of Nature Medicine. The new findings will help the medical community produce more effective vaccines and may open the doors for creating new vaccines for diseases such as HIV or tuberculosis…

…Alum is a common grocery store staple used in pickling. It is very effective in inducing antibody responses and is the only human vaccine adjuvant approved for large-scale immunization. It has been in use for 90 years and appears in almost all vaccines we receive as without an adjuvant vaccines in general do not work.

For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost click here

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) today gives its support to the 2011 WHO World Health Day, which this year takes as its theme Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) and raises awareness of the problem of antibiotics losing their effectiveness over time as bacteria naturally evolve and mutate to become resistant to drug treatments…

WHO has today called on governments and stakeholders to implement the policies and practices needed to prevent and counter the emergence of highly resistant infections, and also to provide appropriate care to those seriously affected by these microbes. The R&D-based pharmaceutical industry echoes that call and commits to play its part in addressing the challenge of AMR. Specifically, the IFPMA and its member companies and associations pledge the following:

  1. Continue our investment in R&D programs dedicated to the development of new antibacterial agents.
  2. Work in partnership towards a responsible global approach with UN Agencies (principally WHO), national governments, healthcare providers, NGOs and other stakeholders in the areas of education, prevention, innovation, access, financing and capacity-building initiatives.
  3. Support the WHO’s work to advise on the appropriate use of these vital medicines.

March 15, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , | Leave a comment


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