Getting Malaria? Facing the Facts on World Health Day

Child death rates from malaria have halved since 2000, and more than 3.3 million people have been saved by prevention methods and treatment. However, a child still dies every minute from a disease that costs less than £1 to treat (Malaria No More).

On 7 April for World Health Day, researchers from the Malaria Reference Laboratory, the ACT Consortium and the Department of Disease Control joined Malaria No More UK to encourage MPs from all parties to back action against malaria into the next Parliament. They discussed vector control and malaria diagnosis and treatment with members of the public and more than 30 parliamentarians, including Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State for International Development.

Claire Rogers and Dr Debbie Nolder focused on diagnostics. Debbie showcased malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) that are used in the field to detect malaria parasites in blood and give readings in under 15 minutes. Claire displayed malaria-infected blood films, teaching visitors how to identify the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum under the microscope. Some parliamentarians were amazed to see how many individual parasites were present in blood that was heavily infected.

Dr James Logan, Sarah Banks and Christina Due test insect control products, and they spoke about how mosquitoes are attracted to people using their highly-developed sense of smell. The use of preventative measures when in malarious areas is very important, and repellents containing up to 50% DEET are recommended. MPs tested their attractiveness to mosquitoes by placing their arms above the metal grill of a mosquito box, counting how many Anopheles gambiae approached for a sniff!

Dr Lena Lorenz and Debora Miranda discussed prevention and treatment, showing how the levels of insecticides on bed-nets can be tested in the field, and highlighting widespread issues with counterfeit malaria medication (artemisinin-based combination therapy – ACT) and how treatment is accessed in low income areas.

The event was a great opportunity to share the wealth of experience of School researchers, and we have already started to see the impact of the event in Parliament, with questions from Mark Durkan MP and Jeremy Lefroy MP to the Secretary of State for International Development around whether the Government will commit to halving malaria deaths again by 2020.