Twice as many malaria deaths

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Twice as many people died of malaria than WHO published

Malaria is one of the most insidious infectious diseases from which children in the tropics and subtropics in particular die. It is transmitted by the bite of a female mosquito of the genus Anopheles. While the World Health Organization (WHO) speaks of 655,000 malaria deaths in 2010, the analysis by US scientists who analyzed all available data on this topic and set up corresponding calculation models revealed significantly more malaria-related deaths. Christopher Murray of the University of Washington and his team found that 1.2 million people died of the disease in the same year.

Malaria: A Poverty Illness? Malaria mainly occurs in the tropics and subtropics, which include large parts of the African continent. Her symptoms primarily include a very high, recurrent fever, which is accompanied by chills, margin-bowel complaints and cramps. Especially in children, if not treated, the disease quickly leads to coma and eventually death. So far there is no approved vaccine against the disease. One of the main reasons cited is that malaria mainly affects economically disadvantaged, poor people and pharmaceutical companies see no financial benefit in doing research in this area.

At the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in the city of Lambarene in Gabon, Africa, a new vaccine against malaria in children and infants is being tested. The tropical medicine doctor from Tübingen, Professor Peter Kremsner, head of the Gabon Research Center, reports that the malaria vaccine has a success rate of around 50 percent. But further studies are necessary.

As a preventive measure, travelers from the western world usually receive so-called chemoprophylaxis or carry malaria medication with them (stand-by therapy). Such therapies are unfortunately often not available to the locals. Fortunately, the scientists recorded a significant drop in malaria-related deaths, which they attribute to the intensification of measures to combat malaria through the "Global Funds to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria". They expressly point out the great importance of the relief funds and emphasize the great danger for further malaria control due to the currently difficult financial situation of the funds.

Computational models show the real dimension of malaria The US scientists report twice as many deaths as previously assumed in the specialist journal "The Lancet". While the WHO estimates 655,000 malaria deaths in 2010, the researchers calculated a significantly higher number. After evaluating all available data, they concluded that 1.2 million people died of the disease in the same year. In particular, the group of older children and adults is affected much more than previously thought.

But there is also good news because the number of deaths is falling significantly, the scientists report. While malaria mortality peaked in 2004 with 1.8 million deaths, in 2010 it was only 1.2 million, around a third less. The researchers also explain that the number of deaths outside of Africa is steadily decreasing. The most affected group are children under the age of five. In 2010, 56 percent of the deaths occurred among them.

It was particularly surprising for scientists that children over the age of 15 and adults are also severely affected by the disease. They accounted for about a third of the deaths. The experts' previous view was that children develop immunity to malaria if they came into contact with the pathogen at an early age and therefore only die from it as adults in exceptional cases.

Numbers on malaria mortality are controversial It is striking that the figures for malaria mortality by Christopher Murray and his team are significantly higher than those of the WHO. "The Lancet" wrote in a comment that the evaluation will certainly be the subject of numerous debates. This affects not only overall mortality but also child mortality, for example, because while experts previously assumed 16 percent, the scientists have now come to the conclusion that 24 percent of all toddlers who died in 2010 in sub-Saharan Africa succumbed to malaria. (ag)

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Image: Gerd Altmann /
(Model tracing)

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