Malaria in Africa

Malaria in Africa

NARRATOR: In July 2008 Kenya Medical Research Institute, or
KEMRI for short, continued testing children for malaria
immunity in the highlands of Kenya. GIDEON KHASIANI: Because we are a population of about 326 and you will find that in a week before a week elapses you would get maybe about ten children, 15 children who are sick. NARRATOR: Malaria is the greatest
killer of children under age five in Africa resulting in nearly a million deaths.
Shalee, a student at Iguhu, has malaria. The anopheles gambiae mosquito is the most notorious transmitter of the
disease. DR. ANDREW GITHEKO: As you know, mosquitoes are arthropods, these are insects that do not control
their internal temperatures. The control of the temperatures inside mosquitoes is entirely dependent on the external
temperature. If it’s very cold their whole system goes slowly. The development of
mosquitoes takes a long time. Development of parasites within the mosquitoes takes a long time. And if it gets very cold the whole system
basically shuts down. However, if it’s warming up, then it revs up the mosquito cycle. It revs up the
parasite cycle. And it gets to a time where transmission can be sustained, particularly in the highlands, and then you get epidemics coming up. You get increased transmission. NARRATOR: Doctor Andrew Githeko realizes that Shalee is sick and takes
her to a hospital just down the road from her school. Symptoms of severe cases may include
kidney failure, coma, or even death. But symptoms of
clinical cases may be more mundane, and harder to discern from other
diseases. DR. WALTER OTIENO: Children who have malaria… the presentation is actually quite wide, but more so with children who come with fever. They’ll come with vomiting, poor appetite. And you can actually confuse it with any other febrile illness. NARRATOR: The hospital that
Shalee visits sees mostly malaria cases. HELLEN AYISI: The main cause of patients being sick is malaria. Let me say about 70% of the patients we have is malaria. Malaria cases. NARRATOR: Shalee is treated with Coartem, an
anti-malarial drug. Many Africans, however, cannot afford such drugs,
and there’s no guarantee the drug will entirely eliminate the disease from the
body. DR. CHARLES OBONYO: We find that since the emergence of drug resistance mortality from malaria has gone up. I mean, there is increasing mortality, and
even people getting sick. The burden from
malaria is becoming more simply because the drugs are not effective enough to clear parasites, and so people get sicker, and they’re likely to die from the disease. NARRATOR: KEMRI scientists are aware of
the issues concerning drugs and are researching low-cost and low-tech prevention methods for malaria like bed nets. NABIE BAYOH: Basically the, the… When the mosquito comes in contact with a treated net, she… you know she picks up the chemicals from the various parts of their limbs And sometimes if a chemical dose is very high for one limb, we have seen
situation where in the mosquito just… that limb just breaks off and falls off. And then they can drop off a few limbs and then it becomes they cannot fly anymore. And then they get killed. TEACHER: How many of you… slept under a bed net? NARRATOR: While many children at Iguhu still do
not sleep under bed nets, the number has increased in recent years,
and may be contributing to a decline in infections that teachers have seen. NELSON KANZIKA: That used to happen sometimes before the KEMRI started doing their research around here. But ever since they came the number has reduced. We had those cases – they were very common. But right now they have reduced. The number is going down, it’s going down. NARRATOR: The immunity test determines if the
children have Plasmodium in their blood. The test shows if children have an
existing immunity, were previously immune, or have no
immunity. EDNAH OTOTO: Our findings are that 12 percent of the students have immunity, while there rest of 88 percent don’t have immunity. And this is because they’ve lost it. Either they’ve lost it or in the recent days they’ve not been exposed to malarial parasite. In the past around 46.4 percent of students had immunity, which shows that the students who have the parasites have reduced, and the parasite infection has also reduced. NARRATOR: During my time in Kenya, I became
the first white person to take KEMRI’s immunity test. Like an
increasing number of the children at Iguhu, I have no natural immunity to malaria. KEMRI is exploring other low-cost methods
of prevention. Putting a papyrus ceiling in a home, for
example, may prevent mosquitoes from entering a
house through the eaves, thus reducing infectious bites by 80 percent. Planting grasses along pools of
water may cool the warm waters mosquitoes
growing best, and reduce their numbers by, again, 80 percent. DR. ANDREW GITHEKO: Now this new
initiative, using very simple tools like bed nets, are showing great promise that actually malaria can be
controlled. Now, we need to sustain this effort to a point where Africans themselves will be able
to actually meet the cost of control. This may be another five
years, ten years, but I believe as the health of Africans improves, their economies will improve, and they will be
able to sustain these efforts themselves. NARRATOR: Doctor Githeko is
hopeful these methods will help Africans become more economically independent, and live healthier lives. Let’s hope he’s right.

One thought on “Malaria in Africa

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