A report from Public Brodcasting Atlanta in the USA describes the impact of blinding trachoma in Ethiopia. There is a 8-minute podcast. The focus is on an elderly lady with the condition. Women run a greater risk than men of contracting trachoma. Also interviewed is Paul Emerson who leads the Carter Center Trachoma Control Programme.
Archive for June 18th, 2009
A BBC report, which includes a short music video, describes the campaign against onchocerciasis (river blindness) in Burkina Faso in West Africa. The report highlights the role of community volunteers.
The Deputy Director of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), Dr Dipak Kabadi, told the Times that: “Filariasis, though nearly eradicated in the state, is a major health problem in India and notwithstanding existence of the national filarial control programme since 1955, there are considerable cases of micro-filaraemics, symptomatic filariasis and individuals potentially at risk of infection. Over the last one decade, there have been new diagnostic and treatment tools and control strategies for filariasis. The new control strategy also adopted in Goa aims at transmission control through mass treatment and at disease control through individual patient management”.
Artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) is now the mainstay of treatment for malaria and - with no new drugs in the development pipeline - it is vital to do everything possible to delay the development of artemisinin resistance. It is known that the use of low doses of antimalarials, resulting in parasites “experiencing” the drug but at levels which allow them to survive it, is a major factor in the the development of resistance.
What should we make, therefore, of the fact that people in Uganda are being recommended to drink tea made from the leaves of artemisia (the herbal source of artemisinin)?
Monitor Online reports that Mr Charity Mugisha, general secretary of the National Council for Traditional Healers and Herbalists Association says: “Taking a cup of boiled artemisia leaves mixed with lemon grass every week prevents one from contracting malaria. Our counterparts in the Ministry of Health have actually proved that the artemisia mixture also improves the health of people living with AIDS just because it cures all the diseases that normally attack an AIDS patient.” Mr Mugisha also says that taking a cup of boiled artemisia leaves every week cures eye infections and conjunctivitis, and that it can heal “spirit possessed persons”.
The Monitor also reports Patrick Ogwang a pharmacist and pharmacologist with the Ministry of Health as recommending the use of a combination of artemisia and lemon grass tea. Speaking of his involvement in a study involving several Ugandan communities, he said: “Our laboratory with me as the lead investigator monitored these communities for six months and found that it appeared that taking boiled leaves of artemisia mixed with lemon grass was giving them 80 per cent maximum protection from contracting malaria. But the safety and resistance to artemisinin was not investigated. Once this is fully investigated, we shall recommend for the official use of the mixture to fight malaria and save peoples’ lives besides stopping the heavy costs the government spends on buying malaria drugs”.
It is not the first time that artemisia tea has been recommended for treating or preventing malaria but, given what we now know about the development of resistance to antimalarials, there must be some concern that, should the drinking of artemisia tea become common in malaria-endemic countries, the demise of artemisinin as an effective malaria treatment might well be hastened.
A thoughtful article in the Boston Globel adds to the debate on which aspects of global health the USA should be supporting. Programmes to control HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria have become the main beneficiaries of US development aid but increasingly concern is being expressed at the neglect of other health priorities, such as diarrhoeal disease in children.
The Globe reports that Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew is leading a State Department review of current development strategy. It also speculates that Dr Paul Farmer of the Harvard Medical School may be given a high level post - either within US Agency for International Development (USAID) or at the White House - as part of efforts to restructure US support for global health.
See also a recent TropIKA.net news story on a recent Institute of Medicine report that addresses the same concerns.