Saturday December 15, 2018

New Type of Bed Net Could Help Fight Against Malaria

The latest figures from the World Health Organisation shows that in 2016 malaria infected about 216 million people across 91 countries, up from five million in 2015

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Malaria, Vaccines
This new type of bed net can help prevent malaria: Lancet. (VOA)
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Researchers have developed a new type of bed net with a specific combination of an insecticide and insect growth regulator that could prevent millions of cases of malaria.

The novel net, detailed in the journal The Lancet, contains a pyrethroid insecticide, which repels and kills the mosquitoes, and an insect growth regulator — pyriproxyfen — which shortens the lives of mosquitoes and reduces their ability to reproduce.

Compared to conventional nets, this new type of mosquito net reduced the number of cases of clinical malaria by 12 per cent.

In areas with new combination beds, there was also a 51 per cent reduction in risk of a malaria infective mosquito bite.

Children sleeping under the new bed nets were 52 per cent less likely to be moderately anaemic, which is a major cause of mortality in children under two years, the research showed.

Malaria
Compared to conventional nets, this new type of mosquito net reduced the number of cases of clinical malaria by 12 per cent. Pixabay

“This new invaluable tool would enable us to tackle more efficiently this terrible and deadly disease that affects many children. If deployed correctly, we could certainly prevent millions of cases and deaths of malaria,” said principal investigator Alfred B. Tiono, from the CNRFP in Africa.

For the study, the team conducted a two-year clinical trial in Burkina Faso, West Africa, involving 2,000 children, aged between six months and five years.

In the trial, the conventional bed nets were replaced over time with the new combination nets in 40 rural clusters covering 91 villages, involving 1,980 children in 2014 and 2,157 in 2015.

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The number of mosquito bites and incidence of clinical malaria in the participants were recorded by health clinics and the number of mosquitoes in the houses was tracked through monthly light traps.

The latest figures from the World Health Organisation shows that in 2016 malaria infected about 216 million people across 91 countries, up from five million in 2015. (IANS)

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An Experimental Vaccine to Treat Malaria

Scientists hope to get a better grasp on the system these vaccines employ, known as cellular immunity. Harnessing this system could help tackle hepatitis and HIV infection.

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Vaccines
A doctor assists people looking for treatment for malaria at a health center in San Felix, Venezuela. VOA

After decades of disappointment in efforts to develop a malaria vaccine, researchers are starting to see promise in a new approach.

While most vaccines trigger the body’s defenses to produce antibodies against a disease-causing germ, the new approach recruits an entirely different branch of the immune system.

If it works, it could open up a new route to attack other diseases, including hepatitis and possibly HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Nearly 450,000 people die of malaria each year, according to the World Health Organization. The parasites that cause the disease are increasingly becoming drug-resistant.

One successful vaccine has been developed so far, but it prevented only about a third of cases in a clinical study.

Experts have decided that’s better than nothing. The vaccine is being piloted in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Vaccine
Defensive cells killed liver cells that were infected with malaria parasites. (VOA)

New angle

Other scientists are trying a different angle of attack.

There are basically two ways to prevent germs from causing infections. “You either prevent them from getting into cells with antibodies, or you kill them inside the cells with T-cells,” said Stephen Hoffman, chief executive officer of Sanaria, a company working on one vaccine.

Most vaccines target the infection by building up antibodies. “If you need to kill them inside the cells with T-cells, we haven’t been overwhelmingly successful,” Hoffman said.

But Sanaria is one group seeing success by targeting malaria parasites inside infected liver cells, the first stop in the complex life cycle of the disease.

One key difference is how the vaccine is delivered. Hoffman’s group tried a typical route: injecting radiation-weakened parasites into patients’ skin or muscle. That didn’t work.

But it did work when injected directly into veins.

Vaccine
A public health worker takes a blood sample from a woman to be tested for malaria in Bo Rai district, Trat province, Thailand. VOA

The weakened parasites traveled to the liver, where they set off an immune reaction. Defensive cells killed liver cells that were infected with malaria parasites.

And the liver’s defenses were ready when faced with the real thing months later.

Most of that early work has been done in mice and macaques. When Hoffman and colleagues did something similar with a handful of human patients, most were protected against infection.

No waiting

Recruiting immune cells in the liver is especially effective because “we don’t need to wait until the immune system figures out that the parasite is in the liver and starts mounting an immune response, which can take days and sometimes weeks,” said Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University.

“By then, the malaria’s gone. It only spends a week in the liver, and then it’s out in your blood causing disease.”

Vaccine
FILE – A worker of the Ministry of Public Health and Population fumigates in the street against mosquito breeding to prevent diseases such as malaria, dengue and Zika in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2016. VOA

Hill’s group just published a study in the journal Science Translational Medicinein which immune cells in the liver were triggered by using a protein from the parasite, rather than the entire organism.

Scientists hope to get a better grasp on the system these vaccines employ, known as cellular immunity. Harnessing this system could help tackle hepatitis and HIV infection.

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Drugs can control HIV infection but can’t eliminate it from the body.

“If somebody could get cellular immunity to work really well for vaccination, that would be transformative for a whole range of diseases,” Hill said. “Not just for infectious diseases that we want to prevent, but ones that we want to treat and we can’t treat today.” (VOA)