Courtesy: MHallahan/Sumitomo Chemical
“Social networking media is going to change the world!”
How many times have you heard that in the past year? Probably too many to count – especially if you’re an avid AC360° viewer who uses Twitter and Facebook regularly.
But I bet even the most jaded techies among you will feel good about this story: This past January, the folks at Malaria No More and their partners distributed the first of more than 89,000 malaria nets in the Saraya and Velingara health districts in Senegal.
“The most effective tool for preventing malaria in Africa is a $10 mosquito net. A family can sleep under it, and it protects them from the mosquitoes that spread malaria at night,” explains Malaria No More CEO Scott Case.
By distributing those nets, Case’s group hopes those parts of Senegal could become some of the first in the entire continent to reach “Universal Coverage” – where every single person is able to sleep under a mosquito net.
Program Note: Today, a report about the discovery of the origin of Malaria was released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Dr. Nathan Wolfe, an epidemiologist, authored the report. Wolfe leads the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative (GVFI), which has been working with the Cameroon government, Limbe Wildlife Sanctuary and the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund/Ape Action Africa to learn more about common diseases of wild animals and to explore the origins of human diseases in order to predict and prevent them. Read these dispatches from members of Wolfe's research team in Cameroon. And tune in tonight to hear from Dr. Wolfe – a so-called virus hunter – and to learn more about the discovery. AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
From cattle ranching to the frontlines of research
Vet, Global Viral Forecasting Initiative – Cameroon
I grew up in a family of cattle ranchers. This probably explains my choice of career as a vet. The love I have for my profession has led me to work in veterinary clinics where I have worked with pets, in commercial animal production and also in the wildlife sanctuaries managed by Ape Action Africa/CWAF and Limbe Wildlife Centre where I currently work with GVFI.
The thing that worries me most since I entered the world of research is the permanent need for us to avoid zoonotic epidemics and pandemics, especially as many of our populations depend on hunting and raising of animals and don’t know the risks that they face in handling animals without precautions.
My daily routine involves collaborating with the sanctuaries who collect blood samples and feces from the animals. I then bring them to the lab for processing and testing. I also head to forest areas to collect samples from animals hunted in villages in the hope of making discoveries that could save human or animal lives. I have much hope and am convinced of what I do because one day I know I will have participated in saving many lives.
New solutions to old problems
Joseph Le Doux Diffo
Rural Site Researcher, GVFI – Cameroon
I began working on wildlife years ago when I was doing my masters at the University of Yaounde in Cameroon in 1999.
I did research on the intestinal parasites of wild and pet monkeys of Cameroon and identified numerous parasites apparently similar to those found in humans. I also worked on reptiles, studying the fauna of Bouba Ndjida National Park in Cameroon.
After meeting Dr Nathan Wolfe from GVFI I started work on lizard malaria and this was the beginning of a long period of interesting research including a trip to the Malaria Diagnostics Centre of Excellence in Kisumu, Kenya.
Working with wildlife sanctuaries and with hunters in remote forest areas of Cameroon was the next step. Collaboration with sanctuaries includes collecting blood and feces from primates to search for malaria and viruses. I now share my working time in the field and in the lab doing sample processing and primate blood slide readings.
Program Note: Posted below is the latest article from Dr. Nathan Wolfe, a virus hunter who believes he has discovered how humans first contracted Malaria. One of the world's deadliest diseases, Malaria claims the lives of more than 1 million people a year, most of whom are children. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will have a full report on the study and Dr. Wolfe will join us on AC360° tonight at 10p ET.
Dr. Nathan D. Wolfe et al.
Global Viral Forecasting Initiative
The distinguished anthropologist Frank B. Livingstone conjectured that P. falciparum may have been acquired by a transfer to humans of a chimpanzee parasite. The plausibility of Livingstone’s hypothesis was based on the supposition that, as humans developed increasingly larger agricultural societies, they encroached upon the dwindling forest habitats of species such as the chimpanzee, and so there may have been repeated opportunities for horizontal transfer.
Today, human encroachment into the last forest habitats has further extended, leading to a higher risk of transfer of new pathogens, including new malaria parasites. Our results confirm Livingstone’s conjecture and, moreover, suggest that the world’s extant populations of P. falciparum derive from a single transfer of P. reichenowi from chimpanzees to humans.
How and when did the host transfer occur? A hypothesis proposed in the past was that the ancestors of P. falciparum would have been transferred from another host to humans as our Neolithic ancestors transitioned from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists some 10,000 years ago. This proposal was based on anthropological information about the history of our species, but also on the estimated age of hemoglobin mutants that render humans resistant to malaria infection.
James L. A. Webb, Jr
Professor, Colby College
Malaria is the oldest of the human infectious diseases. Over tens of thousands of years, as early humanity expanded in tropical Africa and across tropical Eurasia, malaria parasites took advantage of our human propensity to migrate and our social need to congregate.
Malaria traveled with infected hunters and adventurers across mountain ranges and deserts, and after the domestication of animals, malaria traveled more quickly, galloping across grasslands and plains. It became the principal disease burden of Eurasia as well as tropical Africa. And much, much later, thanks to the technological ingenuity of human beings, malaria sailed with infected passengers on shipboard across the oceans, rode the rails across the continents, and then flew aboard aircraft from one hemisphere to the other. It became a global disease.
Malaria has etched highly varied patterns into human history. In some times and places malaria has appeared as a seasonal affliction and in others as a year-round burden. It has been a debilitator of general populations and a killer that targets young children and non-immunes. For these reasons, our cultural assessments of malaria's significance have been highly diverse, and different societies have 'known' malaria in very different ways.
CNN Medical Producer
Nathan Wolfe is a hunter, but he doesn't carry a gun. His prey are invisible to the naked eye.
Wolfe leads expeditions into the mysterious world of viruses and pathogens.
"They are everywhere," said Wolfe, a microbiologist who speaks of his targets - infectious organisms - with the giddy lilt of a teenager on a first date. "We have the potential to explore a completely new biological world and go out and really find new things all the time."
One bug has been Wolfe's singular obsession for more than a decade, arguably the biggest menace to humans: malaria.
"If you think about HIV virus as a singular hurricane event, malaria is like the hurricane that's been hitting for thousands of years - constantly," said Wolfe, who heads a research institute called the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative.
Program Note: Tonight, Dr. Nathan Wolfe joins us on AC360º at 10 P.M. ET to discuss his remarkable findings on the origins of malaria.
CEO, Malaria No More
This week, the world discovered a new and powerful weapon in the fight against malaria: Twitter. The social networking and micro-blogging tool mobilized a million people to battle the disease by helping Ashton Kutcher be the first to reach one million Twitter followers—saving lives, 140 characters at a time.
Earlier this month, Ashton decided to help raise awareness about malaria for World Malaria Day on April 25th. To do so, he leveraged his popularity on Twitter to spread the word and encourage his followers to donate $10 mosquito nets at http://www.MalariaNoMore.org. This simple act (or “tweet”) brought a message of malaria awareness to a new audience in an innovative way and galvanized hundreds of thousands of people to take action.
Innovation like this is exactly what’s needed to end malaria deaths. When Ashton challenged CNN in a race to a million Twitter followers, he added a twist: 10,000 mosquito nets for Malaria No More to help families protect their children in Africa if he reached the target first. CNN quickly accepted the challenge and pledged 10,000 nets if they could beat Ashton to the magic number.
The gauntlet was thrown and the race was on. But the fight to end malaria deaths had already scored a major victory.
As a technologist, I’m always looking for the next big thing in new media and breakthrough communications. Twitter is a phenomenal tool—but this is the first time I’ve seen it used in such a powerful way. With this race, Ashton not only showed the power of new media, he also launched what may be the biggest technology-driven, pro-social movement in history.
Every individual who participated in the Twitter race played a vital role in moving the world toward one in which no child dies of malaria. To make a difference, Twitter followers didn’t need to make a large donation or a grand gesture. The race to a million showed that the power of dedicated individuals united behind a common cause can spark a movement. Every Twitterer involved—regardless of whether they followed Ashton or CNN—took a simple action that will have outsized impact in the lives of families across Africa.
Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease that kills a child in Africa every 30 seconds—but we know how to stop it. Thanks to new tools, resources and political commitment across the globe, we are winning the fight against malaria. Public engagement shows our leaders that we are determined to beat malaria. Ashton and CNN’s Twitter race shows how we can catalyze technology and innovation to tackle a social problem and make real and lasting change.
We’re working to end malaria deaths by 2015—we can do it, but we need everyone’s help. Every tweet helps, every mosquito net helps, every person has the power to help save lives. Join the world in the race to end malaria deaths by getting creative and using the tools at your fingertips. Visit http://www.MalariaNoMore.org or use the power of Twitter, MySpace and YouTube to amplify your voice and inspire others.
Ashton set an ambitious goal of reaching a million Twitter followers this week. Inspired by his success, we’re setting an ambitious target of our own: help us get to one million mosquito nets in one week to celebrate World Malaria Day on April 25th.
As Ashton proved today, anything’s possible.
Follow @malarianomore on Twitter
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