Bug Bites

By Meghan Harper, on 13 June 2010

A few years ago, I got a call from a friend who was working in public health in Malawi. “I have malaria,” he said. “Don’t tell my mom.” Despite taking his antimalarials, he had become very ill, but thankfully in the end, recovered just fine.

Today I learned just how lucky he was, as malaria runs rampant in many areas of Africa and similarly warmer climates. It is most devastating to those under 4 who contracting and there nearly 1 million deaths worldwide every year, from a completely treatable disease. The three largest pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKlein, and Novartis all work together in order to develop and distribute drugs across affected regions to help improve both the life span and quality of life of the populations.

There was also some talk of how the UK may be at an increased risk for Malaria in the coming years. Historically, people in Britain have always known that malaria came from the marsh air (ma-l meaning bad, -airia indicating air). However, with the effects of global warming, the climate may once again make the specific mosquito that can spread malaria from person to person more prevalent.

It was a great talk, and it was great to hear exactly how far treatments from malaria had come, and how effective they are. There were actually quite a number of people in the audience who had contracted malaria at one point in their lives, and the perspective they brought to the group discussion was really unique.

We learned gin and tonics were originally an invention developed by the British military stationed in India to help combat malaria; the quinine in tonic water is an antimalarial. But don’t count on only a delicious cocktail to keep you safe, the dosage isn’t quite high enough!