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Math + Maps = Eliminating Malaria

Math + Maps = Eliminating Malaria

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(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Each year, there are more than 250 million cases of malaria, killing between one and three million people, the majority of whom are young children.  Using mathematical models and maps, researchers have predicted the viability of eliminating malaria from counties that have the deadliest form of the disease.  With these findings, saving countless lives could be as simple as one plus one.

"People need to know that the money they are spending is having an effect," which Andrew Tatem, an assistant professor with joint appointments in University of Florida's geography department, Emerging Pathogens Institute and Center for African Studies, was quoted as saying.

Co-author and fellow UF professor, David L. Smith, adds that the data proposes Plasmodium falciparum malaria the deadliest parasite could be eliminated in most parts of the world in approximately 10 to 15 years if transmission could be reduced by 90 percent from 2007 rates.

Tatem and Smith have been collaborating with a vast team of scientists, geographers, statisticians, in addition to on-the-ground health workers for five years in an effort to produce a worldwide database for mapping and modeling Plasmodium falciparum malaria.  The analysis may give the public health community a tool it needs to most efficiently distribute financial and technical support for regions whose citizens suffer with the disease. 

Thirty-two of the 99 countries that still have endemic malaria have started to eliminate the disease from within their borders.  Tatem and Smith assert that, frequently, countries in South America appear to be in the greatest position to be successful at elimination.  Myriad sub-Saharan African nations rank at the bottom of the researchers' list of countries of relative feasibility for malaria elimination, including Angola, Chad, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, places plagued by unstable governments and systemic poverty.

"Civil and economic strife is always good for malaria and bad for the people," which Smith, associate director for disease ecology at the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute and an associate professor of zoology, was quoted as saying.  He added that there are signs of success in Africa, as several countries have scaled up malaria control programs.  "Some African nations, such as Tanzania, Kenya and Botswana, are in a better position than others to fight malaria," Smith concluded.


SOURCE: The Lancet, October 2010

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