I heard her cries before I saw her. Rita* is a slight girl, maybe eight years old, and she has malaria. In this part of West Africa – a far northern corner of Ghana, near the border with Burkina Faso – the most likely culprit is the parasite Plasmodium falciparum that causes the deadliest type of malaria. Rita emerged from the clinic: teary-eyed, exhausted, miserable. She walked slowly and unsteadily beside her mother, and then dropped to the floor and vomited.
Can you tell us a bit about fine scale epidemiology of mosquito populations?
Can you tell us a bit about the Plasmodium Diversity Network Africa? What made you want to get involved?
Malaria causes one in ten of all deaths among children in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 600,000 dying each year from over 200 million reported cases.
Although the number of deaths is staggeringly high, this is a mortality rate of only 0.3%. Early diagnosis and proper treatment are crucial to prevent death, but it is known that some individuals naturally resist malaria severity.
“Surely there is no malaria here?” This is the typical response of fellow Bangkok residents when I tell them what my research focusses on. Therein lies the malaria paradox: the action gets exciting where the disease is on the verge of being wiped out. So, while hundreds of thousands of African children die of the disease yearly, we focus our attention obsessively on Southeast Asian countries where it is sometimes hard to find enough clinical cases to complete studies.