Keeping with a theme, here, I’m going to post one more time on the subject of mosquitoes before we move on to something else next week. An article in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal traces the history of malaria and the ongoing attempts—some more successful than others—to combat it.
The gist of the article is that we’re not making nearly enough progress against the disease. This is partly because the mosquitoes that help spread it are so good at outwitting us—changing their feeding habits and becoming resistant to the chemicals we use to try to kill them—and partly because we just aren’t trying hard enough. For example, the article points out that of the 200 million pesticide-treated bed nets that have been distributed in malaria-prone areas, nearly half aren’t used consistently by those who receive them, and that fewer than 5% of malaria control programs have performed surveys to see whether they’re dealing with drug-resistant insects or parasites.
Research into new drugs is continuing, though, and clinical trials are underway for a new malaria vaccine. Still, the disease affects 300 million people a year, worldwide, and kills almost one million of them. There seems to be an increase in parasites that are resistant to aremisinin, a widely used antimalarial drug, as well as a spread of mosquitoes resistant to pyrethroid insecticides.
While we have become complacent about malaria in the US—and, according to the WSJ article, so has much of the rest of the world—there are some things that are easier than developing a new drug or, as we did for decades, blanketing areas with insecticides like DDT. Designing and maintaining stormwater BMPs to reduce the chances of mosquitoes breeding there is one of the relatively easy things.