The New York Times reports that a “squadron of young scientists and an army of volunteers” are “waging all-out war against a creature that threatens the health of more people than any other on earth: the mosquito“.
They are testing new insecticides and ingenious new ways of administering them. At night, they look out the windows, watching for mosquitoes that attack sleeping people. They collect blood – from babies, from motorcycle taxi drivers, from goat herders and their goats – to track parasites carried by mosquitoes. But Eric Ochomo, the entomologist leading this effort on the front lines of global public health, recently stood in the marshy grass, laptop in hand, and acknowledged a grim reality: “It seems let the mosquitoes win.”
Less than a decade ago, it was humans who seemed to have gained the upper hand in the century-old fight against the mosquito. But in recent years, this progress has not only stopped, but even reversed. Insecticides used since the 1970s, sprayed in homes and on mosquito nets to protect sleeping children, have become much less effective; mosquitoes have evolved to survive them. After hitting an all-time low in 2015, malaria cases and deaths are on the rise… Last summer, the United States experienced its first cases of locally transmitted malaria in 20 years, with nine cases reported, in Texas, Florida and Maryland. “The situation has become difficult in new areas in places that have always had these mosquitoes, and at the same time other places are going to face new threats due to climatic and environmental factors,” Ochomo said…
Malaria has killed more people than any other disease in human history. Until this century, the fight against the parasite was one-way. Then, between 2000 and 2015, cases of malaria fell by a third worldwide and mortality fell by almost half, thanks to the widespread use of insecticides inside homes, mosquito nets impregnated with insecticide and better treatments. Clinical trials have shown promise for malaria vaccines that could protect children who account for the bulk of malaria deaths. This success attracted new investment and sparked discussions about total eradication of the disease.
But malaria deaths, which fell to a historic low of around 575,000 in 2019, rose significantly over the next two years and stood at 620,000 in 2021, the latest year for which there is data global.
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