July 3 Good Science News #19 China gets the bite on malaria.
Updated: Jul 8, 2021
Time for outdoor activities, picnics, family outings, going to the beach, maybe doing some camping.
And it is time for mosquitos.
In the United States, mosquitos are, for the most part, an annoyance. That high pitched buzz, followed by a few moments of silence, then the pinch of injection as the insect plunges its needle-like mouth parts into your skin.
However, in many countries around the world, mosquitos bring life-threatening disease, including an age-old nemesis, malaria.
Malaria is caused by the plasmodium parasite, a single celled organism that journeys between humans and mosquitos during its life history. In 2019, the number of deaths caused by the malaria plasmodium was determined to be over 400,000, with most of the deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and with most of the victims targeted being children under the age of 5.
Throughout history, China, like most of the other countries in the world, has had its share of malaria. There are references to malaria in China, on bone, tortoise shell and metal objects that date back over 3,500 years. In recent history, specifically during World War II, it has been estimated that over 30 million Chinese contracted malaria per year.
And here is where the good news comes in, since 2017 the number of malaria cases in China have gone to zero. Given that over 17% of the world’s population live in China, this is a big deal. While India, the second most populous country is not malaria-free, it is also on track to become so by 2030.
The World Health Organization certifies a country as being malaria free once a country has shown that there have been no internally originated cases of malaria within its borders for three consecutive years. China just surpassed the three-year mark, and as such has joined the ranks of over 100 other countries that are malaria free.
Over the last eighteen months, Covid-19 has captured the attention of the world, justifiably so. But even with the devastation that Covid-19 has imparted on the world’s population, malaria and other familiar diseases have continued to exert their wrath upon the humanity. In that fight, China has just reached an important milestone.