One of the top priorities of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting efforts to control and eradicate malaria. The disease occurs in nearly 100 countries worldwide, and currently has major health and economic impacts in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
More than 200 million people suffered from the disease in 2010 – leading to more than half a million deaths that year alone. And the vast majority of malaria victims are young children under age of five.
The Worldwide Fight Against MalariaDr. Bruce Hay, professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology, and Dr. Jessie Stone is the founder and director of Soft Power Health, talk about what can be done against Malaria.
To understand what more can be done against Malaria, Full Frame convened two experts; one from the field and one from the lab. Dr. Jessie Stone is the founder and director of Soft Power Health, an NGO, based in Uganda, dedicated to fighting malaria. Aid work was far from Dr. Stone’s mind when she embarked on a kayaking expedition on the Nile River in Uganda in 2003. But when two of her fellow kayakers contracted malaria, Dr. Stone had to step in and treat them. That experience made her wonder how much the local people in Uganda knew about malaria and she was shocked at the answers she found.
“We did a little survey in the village we were staying in and interviewed 50 residents and not a single one of them understood that malaria was caused by the bite of a mosquito,” Dr. Stone told Mike Walter in the Full Frame studio. “Therefore, if they didn’t understand that, why would they need a mosquito net?”
Dr. Bruce Hay, professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology, focuses his research on innovative ways to eliminate mosquito-borne diseases like Malaria. He explained why developing a malaria vaccine has proven to be such a challenge for scientists.
“Plasmodium as a parasite is very clever about having multiple strategies for evading the human immune system. People who are continually exposed to Malaria build up a low-grade immunity, which makes them always carry the parasite,” Dr. Hay said. “And when the parasite infects young children [they] can get a very severe form of the disease because of a lack of immunity.”