New Ways to Fight Malaria


A mother and child test out a bed net treated with insecticide in Tanzania
Photo by Presidents Mosquito Initiative a component of the U.S. Government's Global Health Initiative. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bed nets? Medicine? Genetic engineering? Liz Waid and Bruce Gulland look at new methods for stopping the deadly disease malaria.

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Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 3  

“I felt like lightning was going through my legs. It spread through my body and in my head. Probably the worst headache, body aches, and chills you could imagine. It felt like I was being hit again and again by an electric shock gun. It was difficult to control my movements. The pain was so intense. I believed I was dying. I was crying out in pain so bad that I was taken to a 24 hour hospital at 3:00 am.”

Voice 1  

This is a description of the sickness malaria. It is from Coumba Makalou, a reporter. She got malaria while working in her home country of Mali.

Voice 2  

People in many areas of the world suffer with malaria every day. But is there a way to stop it? Today’s Spotlight is on new ways to fight malaria.

Voice 1  

Malaria is a sickness carried by a small insect called a mosquito. Mosquitoes bite people and drink their blood. When a mosquito carrying malaria pulls blood out, parasites from the mosquito enter the human. These microscopic parasites will spread through the human. The human will get very sick. An infected person can have a fever, headaches, or damage to the inside of the body. Malaria can be very dangerous. People can die from the disease.

Voice 2  

Malaria is most common in warm, wet places where mosquitoes live. Malaria exists across the world — from Brazil to China, and from Vietnam to large parts of the African continent. Half the world’s population is at risk of malaria. And over 200 million people suffer from malaria every year.

Voice 1  

People usually fight malaria in three ways. The first way is to use chemicals to kill mosquito populations where malaria is common. The second way is for people to sleep under bed-nets. These finely-woven materials protect sleeping people from mosquitoes. The third way is for people to take medicines to protect or heal themselves. These are all valuable and effective ways to protect people.

Voice 2  

Many places have been malaria-free for many years. But malaria is a very difficult disease to kill. In several places, the malaria parasite has even adapted and changed. For example, a common medicine, called Chloroquine, no longer works to treat the disease in some places. Scientists made a new medicine called Mefloquine. But the malaria parasite adapted to resist this medicine also. This has also happened with several other medicines.

Voice 1  

Because of this, scientists are trying ways to fight malaria that do not involve people taking medicines. They are trying to find new and creative solutions to this difficult problem.

Voice 2  

The first solution deals with information. It is difficult to know where a malaria outbreak will happen. If scientists can have better information, they will know where to attack mosquito populations. Mobile phones are making it easier and faster to get good information. Greg Noone wrote about this for the website ‘How We Get to Next’,

Voice 4  

“With increased smartphone use across Africa and South Asia, we are able to ask local people the right questions. Were they bitten by mosquitoes last night? Did they sleep under a net? Did it rain recently? Answering these questions has become much, much easier.”

Voice 1  

Spraying chemicals to kill mosquitoes costs a lot of money. By increasing the amount of information, countries may be able to react more quickly and directly to malaria outbreaks. This will not stop all malaria. But it could greatly decrease the effect on people.

Voice 2  

The second way that scientists are trying to fight malaria is through genetic engineering. Genetic engineering lets people change the genes of a plant or animal. These changes can make crops need less water. Or they can make animals bigger. A new tool, called CRISPR/Cas9 lets scientists change the order in genes.

Voice 1  

The organization Target Malaria hopes to use this technology to make male mosquitoes unable to reproduce. Target Malaria would use the CRISPR/Cas9 technology to make all new mosquitoes unable to make more mosquitoes. It would take several generations, but this would kill all the mosquitoes in an area.

Voice 2  

However, getting people to approve this process is not easy. Communities are unsure about trying something that has never been tried before. Genetic engineering is an especially difficult problem. Even if the technology is good, people may not want it. Tony Nolan is one of the leaders of Target Malaria. He said,

Voice 5  

“We are still early in developing this. Any public use is a long way away. It will not happen without local approval after talking to local people.”

Voice 1  

The third solution to malaria may be the best. It uses a kind of bacteria called Wolbachia. A mosquito carrying Wolbachia bacteria cannot infect people with malaria. Wolbachia can also make male mosquitoes unable to reproduce. So, scientists infect mosquitoes with Wolbachia in laboratories. Then they release these mosquitoes in areas known for malaria. The mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia infect other mosquitoes and spread the bacteria. Scientists have done trials of this method in Brazil, Colombia, and the United States.

Voice 2  

If this method works, it could be good for people and mosquitoes. Normally, after a malaria outbreak, people try to kill the whole mosquito population. This is also true for other diseases that mosquitoes carry, such as ebola, dengue fever, and the zika virus. However, scientists need to be very careful. Even small changes can have a big effect. If we kill off large populations of insects, it will produce other changes too. Alison Isaacs works from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She told The Atlantic,

Voice 6  

“It will be important to investigate if the genetically engineered bacteria could spread beyond mosquitoes. We will need to identify all the risks.”

Voice 1  

Malaria causes a lot of pain and death for people around the world. But some solutions raise a lot of questions. For example, what are the wider results of killing a whole species? Is it right for people to destroy all of one kind of creature? Should people be able to change genes in mosquitoes? These are questions people will have to answer.

Voice 2  

What do you think about these questions? Have you ever had malaria? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1  

The writer of this program was Adam Navis. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘New Ways to Fight Malaria.’

Voice 2  

Look for our free listening app in the Google Play Store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Have you ever had malaria? What do you think is the best way to fight malaria?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Vuong Huu Dinh
said on March 19, 2018

Thank you

It is the first time, I have entered to this wibsite. I am really happy and thank you all of you.

Dinh Vuong

Avatar Spotlight
Bruno
said on March 27, 2018

Hello,
I resisted to learn english for a long time.
Now, I’ m trying again and I will listen and read the spotlightenglish.
Thank you!

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Svitlanka
said on March 27, 2019

I had never had malaria but I’ve heard a lot of scary stories about this disease and I am very afraid of it. I am even afraid to travel to a country where is this disease exists.
I live in Ukraine and didn’t hear about cases of malaria in our country.
I think it’s possible to do any acts to fight this disease forever.  And I do hope the scientists can find a way to solve this difficult issue.

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Honneur
said on March 28, 2019

I never had malaria, despite the fact that I lived in the Amazon rainforest for a long time. I think the best way to fight malaria is genetic engineering, but I do not think eliminating mosquitoes is a good way. Mosquitoes are at the base of the food chain of a region and so we can not eliminate them because other animals will pay the bill ...