Daily Dose: China eradicates malaria within its borders; A potential malaria vaccine takes an important step.

China has managed a truly impressive public health achievement. According to the journal Science, “The World Health Organization (WHO) today is certifying China as free of malaria, after a decadeslong effort drove an estimated annual toll of 30 million cases in the 1940s, including 300,000 deaths, to zero in 2017. Along the way, China developed new surveillance techniques, medicines, and technologies to break the cycle of transmission between the Anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria parasites and humans.” Malaria kills between 1-3 million people each year. Nothing much to say other than, well done. https://bit.ly/3yb9T2w

An malaria vaccine made from live parasites performed well during a small clinical trial. It protected nearly all of the drug’s recipients from infection. According to Nature, “Participants in the study, published on 30 June in Nature1, were given a shot containing live Plasmodium falciparum parasites, along with drugs to kill any parasites that reached the liver or bloodstream, where they can cause malaria symptoms. Participants were then intentionally infected with malaria three months later to test the vaccine’s efficacy. The vaccination protected 87.5% of participants who were infected after three months with the same strain of parasite that was used in the inoculation, and 77.8% of those who were infected with a different strain. This is a significant improvement on earlier efforts to use live parasites in a malaria vaccine, which did not perform as well against different strains.” A malaria vaccine would be an unbelievable boon to global health as well as the fight against poverty worldwide. https://go.nature.com/3dvf7xW

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As more cutting edge medical technology is being made available to consumers, doctors are finding themselves in the position of having to field questions about products they are only vaguely familiar with. At the forefront of this trend are devices known as continuous glucose monitors. An article in STAT explores the phenomenon. According to the article, “Smith’s frustration is becoming more common as CGM technology is exposed to patients with type 2 diabetes, the product of growing advertising budgets and a slowly growing evidence base. The job of fielding those requests falls mostly to primary care physicians, who lead care for patients with type 2 diabetes. But as demand grows, many of these doctors remain unprepared to interpret the evidence needed to prescribe them or navigate the minefield of securing insurance coverage.” https://bit.ly/2TfTT0o

While the coronavirus pandemic has made everyone uncomfortably aware of viruses and their potential dangers, the truth is that we know very little about the vast majority of viruses in circulation. In fact most have yet to be discovered and classified. Scientists are hoping to change that. Per Nature, “Over the past ten years, the number of known and named viruses has exploded, owing to advances in the technology for finding them, plus a recent change to the rules for identifying new species, to allow naming without having to culture virus and host. One of the most influential techniques is metagenomics, which allows researchers to sample the genomes in an environment without having to culture individual viruses. Newer technologies, such as single-virus sequencing, are adding even more viruses to the list, including some that are surprisingly common yet remained hidden until now.” Talk about a Sisyphean task. https://go.nature.com/3x9klr6

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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