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Mosquitoes Have Developed Resistance to Every One of Our Malaria-Fighting Tools

Published: June 28, 2016
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Source: Motherboard

Over the last decade and a half, malaria rates globally have plummeted. In 2000, 839,000 people around the world died from malaria, according to the World Health Organization. In 2015, 438,000 did.

This reduction was achieved for the most part through a concerted global aid effort that focused on simple solutions with widespread distribution. Insecticide-treated bednets (ITNs) were handed out to expectant mothers and school kids to protect families from hungry mosquitoes while they slept. Homes were sprayed with long-lasting insecticide to kill the insects after a blood feed, before they can spread the parasite. Artemisinin combination therapy—the gold standard in antimalarial drugs—was made more widely available, subsidized to be more affordable or free.

Studies tracking these efforts have shown a direct link between interventions like distributing ITNs and the drop in malaria rates. At first glance, it all seems remarkably hopeful: this is working. If we just keep doing what we’re doing, we should be able to wipe out malaria completely, right?

Unfortunately, for every study showing the efficacy of these interventions, there’s another study showing something much less optimistic: All of our best strategies for fighting malaria are at risk of failing. The malaria parasite and mosquitoes have started to develop resistance to ITNs, indoor insecticides, and Artemisinin combination therapy. Though not widespread yet, this developing resistance threatens to render each of our most effective malaria-stopping technologies useless.

 

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