Greece was officially deemed malaria-free in 1974. Recent reports, however, suggest that there is ongoing autochthonous transmission of of Plasmodium vivax malaria. According to a brief report from the Mediterranean Bureau of the Italian News Agency (ANSAmed), 40 cases of P. vivax malaria have been reported in the first seven months of 2012. Of these 40, six had no history of travel to areas known to be endemic for malaria transmission. The natural inference is thus that they acquired it locally (i.e., “autochthonously”) and that malaria may be back in Greece.
More detail on the malaria cases in Greece can be found on this European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control website. The actual ECDC report on autochthonous malaria transmission in Greece can be found here. A point in that report that is not mentioned in the ANSAmed newswire is that 2012 marks the third consecutive year in which autochthonous transmission has been inferred in Greece. So much for Greece being malaria-free.
One of the fundamental ontological questions of our day is surely, “is there anything you can’t do with ape scat?” Well, OK, this might be pushing it a bit far, but a recent article in the New York Times makes a pretty strong case for the blessings of this pungent goo. My collaborator Beatrice Hahn, quoted in this article as saying that ape scat is “worth its weight in gold,” has been collecting fecal samples gathered by far-flung ape researchers throughout Africa. In addition to providing fundamental data on the landscape-level distribution of SIV (the work on which I have collaborated with her), Beatrice’s ape scat collection has now yielded the secret of the origin of Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly of the five species that cause human malaria infection. The paper by Liu and colleagues appeared in the 23 September issue of Nature. There is a nice accompanying piece by Eddie Holmes as well. It turns out that P. falciparum malaria spilled over into human populations from western gorillas, rather than from chimpanzees as had long been thought. Makes all that smelly collecting actually seem worthwhile…
A piece in today’s New York Times notes that the existence of $10 bed nets makes charity for malaria easy, cool, and almost addictive. Our kids’ school ran a Nothing But Nets fundraiser this spring. I had the privilege of giving a lecture to a couple hundred very sharp elementary school kids about what malaria is, how you get it, and what we can do to eradicate it.
Classrooms competed to see which could raise the most money and, this being Palo Alto, I think there was a lot of money raised. I also had the amazing experience of clandestinely watching my own son open up his piggy bank one morning before school, pull out his own money (and there’s not a whole lot of it in there), and decide to contribute his own $10 in addition to the $100 we had already given his class. You could see the reasoning being played out on his face: “If I give this $10 bill, I can help save the lives of a family of four. That’s more important than a new Wii game.” I was very very proud, to say the least. Providing kids with the opportunity to do good and feel like they are making a difference can lead to some incredible behavior. Maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for us still.