Magazine article UN Chronicle

And Other Major Diseases. (Halting and Beginning to Reverse the Incidence of Malaria)

Magazine article UN Chronicle

And Other Major Diseases. (Halting and Beginning to Reverse the Incidence of Malaria)

Article excerpt

The Malaria Challenge

The decoding of the most dangerous malaria parasite, Plasmodium Falciparum, and the most important mosquito that transmits it, Anopheles Gambiae signals a turning point for global public health. The Tropical Disease Research (TDR) programme and its partners, including its co-sponsor, the World Health Organization (WHO), have pushed for over a decade to bring genetics into the struggle against malaria. For the past two years, TDR has been training more than 100 scientists from Latin America, Africa and Asia, enabling them to analyze the genomes, identify vulnerabilities and build new genetically-based drugs and insecticides.

In an effort to control malaria and save the lives of half of the 800,000 children who die of the disease each year, WHO has urged countries to switch to a new type of treatment whenever there was strong evidence that conventional medicines were no longer working. For decades, the best-known treatment for malaria was chloroquine, an inexpensive medicine that has saved millions of lives. In recent years, the malaria parasite has developed resistance to the drug; chloroquine is no longer an effective treatment in many countries. Resistance to a second-generation drug, known as SP or "Fansidar", is also spreading. As an alternative, WHO recommended Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs), derived in part from a Chinese herb, which kill the malaria parasite very fast, allowing the patient to recover rapidly and with very few side effects. The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has decided to fund proposals to "Roll Back Malaria" in Zanzibar and Zambia, phasing-in the use of n ew ACTS.

International Effort to Eradicate Poliomyelitis

Since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1988, the number of cases has fallen by 99.8 per cent, from an estimated 350,000 cases to 483 in 2001, while the number of polio-infected countries was reduced from 125 to 10. The Global Polio Eradication Technical Consultative Group is overseeing a programme of research and consensus-building on the development of post-eradication polio immunization policy options to be considered by the World Health Assembly as early as 2005. UNICEF and WHO have launched a $50-million appeal for 2003-2005 to immunize 22 million children in the Horn of Africa, which is "one step away" from being certified as polio-free; only two cases have been reported in Somalia and none in Ethiopia and Sudan.

Global Strategy on Traditional Medicine

As traditional medicine becomes more popular worldwide, there is concern among health practitioners and consumers on the issues of safety, policy, regulation, biodiversity and protection of traditional knowledge. WHO released a global strategy that provides a policy framework to assist countries in regulating traditional medicine. About 80 per cent of the people in Africa use traditional medicine. In wealthy countries, growing numbers of patients rely on alternative medicine for preventive or pallative care. Traditional medicine is also used in the treatment of infectious diseases, including malaria. In Africa, North America and Europe, three out of four people living with HIV/AIDS use some form of traditional treatment. The $60-billion global market for traditional therapies is growing steadily. unregulated commercialization threatens to make these therapies unaffordable to many who rely on them as their primary source of health care. About 25 per cent of modern medicines are descended from plants first use d traditionally.

Guide for Essential Medicines

Bad prescribing habits are very common worldwide, according to WHO, leading to ineffective and unsafe treatment, exacerbation of illness and harm to patients, as well as increased costs for insurance systems and Governments. It has released the WHO Model Formulary, a guide that provides comprehensive information on all 325 medicines contained in its Model List of Essential Drugs, which aims to improve patient safety and limit superfluous medical spending. …

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