The development of antimalarial drugs is fascinating – it is often driven by war and conquest. When human beings got busy trying to kill each other (during the era of colonial expansion, WWII, the Vietnam War), they often found themselves face to face with an even deadlier foe. 

Check out my animation that explores this incredible history.

Read more about the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

There’s a mosquito net maker in Africa. He manufactures around 500 nets a week. He employs ten people, who (as with many African countries) each have to support upwards of fifteen relatives. However hard they work, they can’t make enough nets to combat malaria-carrying mosquito.
Enter vociferous Hollywood movie star who rallies the masses, and goads Western governments to collect and send 100,000 mosquito nets to the afflicted region, at a cost of a million dollars. The nets arrive, the nets are distributed, and the ‘good deed’ is done.
With the market flooded with foreign nets, however, our mosquito net maker is promptly put out of business. His ten workers can no longer support their 150 dependents (who are now forced to depend on handouts), and one mustn’t forget that in a maximum of five years the majority of the imported nets will be torn, damaged and of no further use.
This is the micro-marco paradox…
—  Dambisa Moyo, and excerpt from Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa

Tu Youyou (1930 - ): Malaria’s Nemesis

In the 60s and 70s, China found itself in a precarious position: at war with Vietnam and the US, going through massive societal upheaval due to the Cultural Revolution, and, on top of that, ravaged by malaria.

To combat the spread of malaria, Mao Zedong formed a secret military group, nicknamed 523 for its starting date of May 23, to scour through tomes of ancient Chinese remedies in search of a cure for malaria. The task largely fell to Tu Youyou, a medical researcher in an era where scientists were unpopular at large. She labored over 2,000 potential remedies before, in 1977, finally hitting on an effective one: artemisinin, derived from sweet wormwood. After some false starts, the remedy was found to be effective in rats and monkeys. In need of an initial human subject, Tu volunteered herself.

“As head of this research group, I had the responsibility,” she said. “It is scientists’ responsibility to continue fighting for the healthcare of all humans.”

To date, this remedy remains humanity’s most effective weapon against malaria.

Unfortunately, Tu remained in obscurity, despite her herculean efforts. Her findings were published anonymously, and it was not until 2005, when a visiting researcher asked who had actually discovered artemisinin, that her name came to light – and even that required no small amount of research on the part of the medical community. A 2007 interview showed her living in poor conditions, working out of an old apartment building with intermittent heating problems. She only owned two electronic appliances: a telephone and a refrigerator (which she used to store herb samples).

She was recognized with the prestigious Lasker prize in 2011 for her efforts in fighting malaria. Upon receiving it, she remarked that she was grateful, but “I feel more reward when I see so many patients cured.”

Sources: Wikipedia, Lasker Foundation, New Scientist

(thanks to vickadididididi for sending this in!)

Tu Youyou 屠呦呦

(born 1930) Chemist and Nobel laureate

Tu Youyou and her team extracted a substance from sweet wormwood which proved effective in reducing mortality rates for people stricken with malaria. The discovery of Artemisinin has led to the development of a new drug that has saved the lives of millions of people, halving the mortality rate of malaria during the past 15 years.

Number 40 in an ongoing series celebrating remarkable women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

A mosquito that does good for a change

Here comes news of a possible big win for the world: the eradication of malaria, a disease that causes one million deaths per year.

And this is all possible with the creation of malaria-blocking mosquitoes that are no longer a carrier and transmitter of the parasite.

Using the CRISPR gene-editing tool, researchers at UC Irvine and UC San Diego created a breed of mosquitoes that are resistant to malarial parasite and have the ability to pass on the anti-malarial gene to 99.5 percent of its offspring.

More testing needs to be done, but if the advancement could someday lead to the elimination of the disease, millions of people living in malaria zones around the world could sleep more peacefully knowing that the irritating whizzing sound is more of a “self-sustaining disease control tool” than a looming threat. 

Read more about the experiment.



Naming Babies: A new video about health care in rural Ethiopia, meeting Bill Gates, and how sometimes bureaucracy can be very beautiful indeed.

The Gates Foundation

The L10K Project, which helps provide support to rural health extension workers like Yetagesu and Abdulkadir.

Scientists have made a malaria vaccine that is 100% effective

A new study has raised cautious optimism that an effective vaccine might finally become available… The vaccine — called PfSPZ because it is made from sporozoites (SPZ), a stage in the life cycle of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) — uses a weakened form of the whole parasite to invoke an immune response… The trial now needs to be repeated and extended in regions where malaria is rampant to test whether it provides protection against different strains of the parasite.

Youyou Tu is one of three scientists to win the Nobel Prize in medicine. The 12th woman to receive the award, she was recognized for her discoveries around a new malaria treatment – based in centuries-old Chinese medicine.

Artemisinin, when used in combination therapy, is estimated to reduce mortality from malaria by more than 20 percent over all, and by more than 30 percent in children. In Africa alone, it saves more than 100,000 lives each year.


Nobel Prize in Medicine 2015, Part 1: Tu Youyou and the Discovery of Artemisinin

Nobel Prize season has began, and with that will be a series of posts detailing the chemistry-related prizes that are awarded! Today’s post will be about one half of the Physiology/Medicine prize, awarded to Chinese pharmacologist Tu Youyou for the discovery of the antimalarial drug artemisinin. This is the first natural science Nobel Prize awarded to a native mainland Chinese scientist. (Other awards have been given to scientists of Chinese descent that did their work in other countries.)

Tu Youyou (屠呦呦) was born in Ningbo, Zhejiang, China, in 1930 and graduated from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Peking University Medical School in 1955, and worked as a researcher at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences afterwards. She participated in a secret government research program, Project 523, that aimed to discover new antimalarial drugs in an effort to aid North Vietnam in the Vietnam War.

The discovery process was guided by traditional Chinese herbal remedies found in ancient medical texts. One particularly effective remedy was found in “The Handbook of Precriptions for Emergency Treatments” (肘後救卒方), a medical text written in the 4th century: “take one bunch of qinghao [Artemisia annua], soak in two sheng [~400 mL] of water, wring it out to obtain the juice, and ingest it in its entirety.” In 1971, Tu was able to extract the active compound from the herb, artemisinin (also known as qinghaosu, 青蒿素, after the Chinese name for the herb). Tu and her colleagues later determined the chemical structure in 1979, and published their findings anonymously.

Artemisinin and its related derivatives are one of the most effective remedies for malaria. The structure of artemisinin includes an unusual peroxo bridge that is crucial to its antiparasitic activity. Upon ingestion, the ester carbonyl is hydrogenated to form dihydroartemisinin, which is the biologically active metabolite. The mechanism through which dihydroartemisinin kills parasites is unknown, but likely involves radical formation from the peroxo bridge, causing oxidative damage to the parasite.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_Youyou
(2) http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2015/
(3) Miller, L. H; Su, X. Cell. 2011, 146 (6), 855-858.
(4) Cumming, J. N.; Ploypradith, P.; Posner, G. H. Adv. Pharmacol. 1996, 37, 253-297

Vampire Spiders Hunt Blood-Filled, Malaria-Spreading Mosquitoes

There are two species of jumping spiders that specialize in hunting mosquitoes, and one of them is especially drawn to female mosquitoes filled with human blood. The findings, published in the Journal of Arachnology last month, suggest that these mosquito terminators might be natural allies in our fight against malaria.

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

okay but no doubt the debt system is still fucked up and favors the wealthy at the expense of the poor. i've never heard someone say we should erase ALL of the debt. literally no one in that post you reblogged said that.

In the last fifteen years, hundreds of millions of people have emerged from absolute poverty (as defined as living on the equivalent of $1.25 US per day), as you can see here.

This has happened largely because of market-friendly reforms in the developing world (especially China, India, and Brazil) that have led to dramatic increases in quality of life by almost any measure. Life expectancy in Brazil, for instance, has increased SEVEN YEARS since 1990. Brazil is a great example because as the nation became more credit worthy, unemployment and poverty rates decreased, life expectancy shot up, and so did per capita GDP. Cheap debt has been very, very good for Brazil, including the poorest people in Brazil.

Even critical analyses tend to include that at least to some extent, a rising tide lifts all boats.

I don’t mean to be an apologist for free market capitalism, which is problematic in many ways. (Markets, for instance, suck at seeing into the distant future; they also suck at, for instance, developing malaria drugs. Also unregulated markets put too much power into too few hands; wealth distribution is way too uneven; etc.) But in my opinion it’s just inaccurate to say that debt is an inherently bad idea or that the free flow of capital is worse for poor people than the mercantilism it replaced.

Researchers find overwhelming evidence of malaria's existence 2,000 years ago

An analysis of 2,000-year-old human remains from several regions across the Italian peninsula has confirmed the presence of malaria during the Roman Empire, addressing a longstanding debate about its pervasiveness in this ancient civilization.

The answer is in mitochondrial genomic evidence of malaria, coaxed from the teeth of bodies buried in three Italian cemeteries, dating back to the Imperial period of the 1st to 3rd centuries Common Era.

The genomic data is important, say researchers, because it serves as a key reference point for when and where the parasite existed in humans, and provides more information about the evolution of human disease.

“Malaria was likely a significant historical pathogen that caused widespread death in ancient Rome,” says evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poinar, director of McMaster’s Ancient DNA Centre where the work was conducted. Read more.

Approval sought for world’s 1st malaria vaccine

BBC News: GlaxoSmithKline is seeking regulatory approval for the world’s first vaccine against malaria, after promising trial data showed that it cut cases of the often-fatal disease in African children.

The company has been developing the vaccine for 3 decades and plans to submit a regulatory application to the European Medicines Agency.

Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people every year.

Photo: Malaria infected mosquitoes (AFP)