Malaria is preventable and curable! Yet, it kills over 1 million a year, with 90% of those deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. The health care burden on Africa because of malaria is huge as hundreds of millions suffer from it every year. Children and old people are most at risk, especially those who do not have easy access to healthcare. Many charities ask for your help to prevent malaria, using the money you give to provide mosquito nets to those that can not afford them.
At the African Union summit in July Africa’s leaders began a new chapter in the fight against malaria. The AU adopted a Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030. It provides financial and political assurances to eliminate malaria in Africa by 2030. They are also looking for a new generation of innovations that will fight malaria. Such as:
• A single-dose pill, capable of ridding a person of all malaria parasites and preventing future malaria transmission
• More sensitive diagnostics that can detect malaria in people with no symptoms
• Vaccines that could interrupt malaria transmission
• New kinds of insecticides
• Novel mosquito control strategies
Here are some recent innovations in the fight against malaria:
The first I came across was the SolarMal, which uses solar power to power a fan (mosquitoes find it difficult to fly against the wind from a fan) and an electronic discharge insect control system. By using artificial human scent, mosquitoes are attracted to the device, which then kills them, before they can attempt to suck blood and infect! The preliminary tests have been successful, and is attracting users because the solar panel is also able to power lightbulbs and charge phones.
Eave Tubes (Tungulizibomba)
The eave tube is a tube with mosquito killing gauze that can be inserted into the walls just under the eaves. Human odours from inside the house are funnelled out of the house, and Anopheles mosquitoes (those that transmit malaria) are attracted to the tubes. When they mosquito lands on the gauze powder particles contaminate her body, and the mosquito is killed. The powder is charged positively so that it is attracted to the body of the mosquito, no matter which part of it comes into contact with the gauze.
Hackers are working together, in IBM’s new research lab in Johannesburg, to understand why one particular variety of mosquito in South East Asia is developing resistance to artemisinin based drugs, which has been the most successful treatment of malaria so far. There is potential that African mosquitoes may also gain a resistance, so it is important to be able to understand it. The hackers are attempting to come up with a new treatment by studying the genomic makeup of this strain of malaria. They are also doing work to map TB and cancer.
Faso Soap claim to have created a soap which acts as a mosquito repellant. Soap is of course standard in most households so incorporating a mosquito repellant into it could be very effective. The soap, which is made out of Shea butter, lemongrass, African marigold and other natural products from Burkina Faso, leaves a mosquito repelling oder on the skin after use. Normal soaps would just rinse off, but they have combined cosmetic technology to incorporate micro capsules that are small enough to stick to the pores and remain after rinsing. This innovation could be useful against all manner of mosquito borne diseases, such as Zika.
One of the major problems with malaria in Africa is getting access to medicine. Fake medicine is a massive problem in the continent. It is estimated that 1 third of malaria drugs are fake in Africa. They may be weakened down versions of the drug, or contain no medicine at all. Not only does this put the sick at risk, it also leads to potential drug resistant malaria. The Sproxil solution is to have scratch off panels to reveal a code on the medicine. Users can then text in the code and check it against a database and see if it is genuine. More than 70 drug companies have signed up and consumers receives incentives, such as airtime, to use the service. Mobile phones, and not only smart phones, are saving lives and being utilised in many aspects of African life.