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Malaria discovery gives hope for new drugs and vaccines
Date:9/1/2011

widely spread, poorly understood and fruitlessly fought as malaria. The name itself evokes centuries of misunderstanding a misnomer that comes from an old Italian construction that means "bad air." People once thought it was caused by swamp gasses, since it seemed to be prevalent in wet, marshy places.

Since the dawn of modern microbiology research, beginning in the 19th century, scientists have known that the disease is actually caused by a microscopic parasite called Plasmodium, which is spread by mosquitoes common to wet, marshy places. Two of the earliest Nobel prizes went to the scientists who made these basic discoveries, and at the dawn of the 20th century, the situation had never seemed brighter. The possibility that malaria would be eliminated or eradicated was exciting and real then. History proved otherwise.

Full malaria eradication was a major public health effort in the first half of the 20th century and was intensively pursued after World War II. Since that effort was launched, 108 countries have eliminated malaria from within their borders, with another 39 countries en route to that goal. Despite those efforts, malaria remains a major cause of illness in many parts of the world. Today almost half the world's population lives in places where the disease is common.

According to the CDC, about 1,500 cases of malaria still occur in the United States each year, but most are imported when people travel abroad. The real problem exists in several Asian and sub-Saharan African countries, where malaria is both a major leading cause of death and a significant drain on the economy. The World Health Organization estimates that the disease eats up nearly half of all public health expenditures and measurably lowers the gross domestic product of countries where it is common.

Several new approaches to controlling malaria have become available in the last few decades, like insecticide-treated bed nets, but there remains a di
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Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi
jason.bardi@ucsf.edu
415-502-4608
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert  

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