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!)

Bill Gates: We Need Mosquito Week More Than Shark Week

This week over at my blog, TheGatesNotes, we’re hosting Mosquito Week. It’s modeled on the Discovery Channel’s annual fear-fest, Shark Week. But compared to mosquitoes, sharks are wimps. 

In fact, when it comes to killing humans, no other animal even comes close.”

Read more from Bill Gates at mashable.

In London, An Underground Home For The World’s Mosquitoes

You can’t hear it over the noise of London’s traffic. But it’s there. That faint, whining hum. Right under my feet, thousands of mosquitoes are dining on human blood.

To visit them, you have to go through a sliding glass door into the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This school started as a hospital on the Thames River, where doctors treated sailors returning from faraway places with strange parasites.

Today, the building holds countless exotic diseases that you hope you’ll never catch. The mosquitoes carry just a few of them, and their keeper is an entomologist named Dr. James Logan.

To get to them, you have to go underground, then through two sets of doors and a net, and into the restricted access room.

“We don’t want any mosquitoes to escape onto the streets of London, obviously, because we’ve got tropical mosquitoes here,” says Logan.

On the side of the net with the mosquitoes, it feels like the worst kind of August afternoon. Humid, hot and still — just the way mosquitoes like it. We’re in low caverns that were built almost 100 years ago, and we have to duck so we don’t hit our heads.

“Luckily we have quite short people who work in our insectaries,” Logan says. “But these rooms are part of the vaults of the building. At one time during [World War II], for example, they were used as shelters.”

Clear plastic boxes line the walls, each one holding hundreds of mosquitoes. Some are from Pakistan, others from Tanzania. There are mosquitoes that can carry West Nile virus and dengue fever.

The really dangerous ones live in a different room, though. When you jostle a box, the mosquitoes go crazy, hungry for blood.

Continue reading.

Photo: Dr. James Logan, an entomologist, studies mosquitoes from around the world in an effort to make them less dangerous. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine keeps them in a cavern beneath the streets of London. The bowls contain mosquito larvae in water, while the boxes are where the adults live. (Ari Shapiro/NPR)


Over 755,000 people have died from Malaria in the last 12 months. Super Enzyme Justice League (SEJL) talks about the disease and the heroic work being done by Malaria No More.  

Watch videos and vote for your faves: projectforawesome.com

Fooling female mosquitoes to combat malaria

Tricking virgin female mosquitoes into thinking they’ve had sex could reduce the spread of malaria.

Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, the main transmitters of malaria, only mate once in their life cycles.

A hormone is passed to the female mosquito during sex which induces her to lay eggs and makes her unreceptive to other potential mates.

Scientists from Imperial College London, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and the University of Perugia, Italy think this could prove an Achilles heel. If they could mimic this hormone in virgin females they wouldn’t mate and would effectively be sterilised.

Although a female only mates once she can lay several batches of eggs, making An. gambiae the most efficient vector of the human malaria parasite. Malaria is a leading cause of death in tropical and subtropical regions. The World Health Organisation estimates that malaria causes over 650,000 deaths each year, 90 per cent of them in Africa – and most of them children.   

Read more

Image copyright: iStock


Tips to #DefeatMalaria from Private Snafu for World Malaria Day

Private Snafu v. Malaria Mike, 1944

Desperate for effective training films for masses of new recruits during World War II, the Army turned to Hollywood and Oscar-winning director Frank Capra. In order keep soldiers’ attention, Capra recruited talented men such as Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny and Private Snafu), Chuck Jones, and Theodor Geisel to create humorous, sometimes raunchy, cartoons. This team of creative minds partnered with Warner Brothers studios to create the character, Private Snafu

Private Snafu was intended to relate to the non-career soldier. In most of the cartoons, Snafu (an acronym for Situation Normal All Fouled Up) learns a valuable lesson when he disobeys basic army protocol (although his mistake proves fatal here in Malaria Mike).  Snafu tends to be more provocative than a typical cartoon, especially by 1943 standards. Geisel and his team believed that scantily dressed women, mild foul language, and sexual innuendoes would help keep soldier’s attention. Because the Snafu series was only intended for Army personnel, producers could avoid traditional censorship.

via Media Matters » Uncle Sam-I-Am: Dr. Seuss’s Private Snafu

Mosquitoes kill 725,000 people a year, making it the world’s deadliest animal

What’s the deadliest animal Mother Earth has to offer?

The hidden shark, with its mouth full of razor-sharp teeth? Nope.

How about man, the deadliest game? Pretty close.

Velociraptors? Maybe if they weren’t extinct.

According to statistics assembled by the Bill Gates’ Gates Notes and transformed into this awesome infographic, the most lethal animal on the planet is something we know all too well, but rarely think about: mosquitoes.

Read more | Follow policymic

This actually happened to my friend who also studies medicine but in another city.

So she was just doing her peds rotation and she got this little girl with unexplained high fever, splenomegaly, back pain, fatigue etc. 

After few days she got all better and went home. 

About month later she was back, fevers.

Nobody asked the mom about travelling. She have seen several doctors, specialist and few medstudents. And my friend asked the one question

Did u travel anywhere in the past?

And apparently the whole family went on vacation in summer to south of Italy. The girl got malaria.


We live in central Europe but damn this shows we really gotta think about everything. Also one other thing

Properly taken history is half of the diagnosis

It probably was an airport transmission. Like if I didn´t hate flying before this

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Could Wipe Out Malaria

Scientists have figured out a way to modify malaria-carrying mosquitos so they only produce males.

After six years of trying, scientists have discovered a way to genetically modify mosquitoes so they produce sperm that will only conceive male offspring.

Female mosquitoes are the ones who bite people and pass along malaria, so scientists think if they can significantly lower the number of female mosquitoes the rate of malaria will also go down. In their research published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers created a modified strain of mosquitoes that produced 95% male offspring.”

Learn more from timemagazine.

A GMO Might Be the Key to a Malaria Vaccine

Scientists at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute recently made a potentially game-changing discovery: By genetically modifying the malaria parasite and removing the genes it needs to multiply, they can create a noninfectious GMO parasite. Published in ScienceDaily, the researchers found that when these innocuous parasites are introduced in people, the immune system is prompted to develop resistance against the disease. This could be the new, groundbreaking malaria vaccination.

Read more

Photo by Yann Libessart/MSF

A mother and child wait for the results of a blood test for malaria in the PK5 district of Bangui. The time from testing to results is 15 minutes, and provides a positive or negative result by searching for parasites in the blood. Malaria is transmitted when one is bitten by an infected Anopheles mosquito carrying the parasite. In 2012, malaria caused an estimated 627,000 deaths, mostly among African children, but is both preventable and curable when caught in time. Control and preventative measures can dramatically reduce the incidence of this disease.

Scientists wipe out malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the lab by creating male-only offspring

Scientists have modified mosquitoes to produce sperm that will only create males, pioneering a fresh approach to eradicating malaria.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, scientists from Imperial College London have tested a new genetic method that distorts the sex ratio of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, the main transmitters of the malaria parasite, so that the female mosquitoes that bite and pass the disease to humans are no longer produced.

In the first laboratory tests, the method created a fully fertile mosquito strain that produced 95 per cent male offspring.

The scientists introduced the genetically modified mosquitoes to five caged wild-type mosquito populations. In four of the five cages, this eliminated the entire population within six generations, because of the lack of females. The hope is that if this could be replicated in the wild, this would ultimately cause the malaria-carrying mosquito population to crash.

This is the first time that scientists have been able to manipulate the sex ratios of mosquito populations. The researchers believe the work paves the way for a pioneering approach to controlling malaria.