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Medicine Science

Promising New Drug May Cure Malaria 190

Diggester writes "Researchers at the University of Cape Town in South Africa have developed a pill that can wipe out malaria with a single dose. It's a development that could save millions of lives in Africa alone, not to mention the rest of the world. But there's a teensy weensy little hurdle that must first be overcome: human testing. According to National Geographic, 'Clinical tests are scheduled for the end of 2013. If this tablet is approved in coming years, this achievement will surely usher in a new age for science in Africa. It will save millions upon millions of lives on the continent, helping avoid at least 24 percent of child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.'"
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Promising New Drug May Cure Malaria

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @08:55AM (#41188817)

    ... they'll all die of starvation anyway.

    I do think this is a positive development, but it's going to have to be followed up with some pretty intense education and condom dispersal in order to actually help things.

  • by jolyonr ( 560227 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @08:59AM (#41188853) Homepage

    ... they'll all die of starvation anyway.

    Maybe a bit overdramatic - but the truth is that overpopulation is every bit as much of a problem as climate change - if not more so.

    One could argue these two problems may eventually even each other out - but I wouldn't like to think of that as any kind of positive solution.

  • Re:Whack-a-mole (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CrankyFool ( 680025 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:10AM (#41188927)

    The slashdot audience is sometimes incredibly cynical. "Oh, sure, cure Malaria, but I'll bet you all those people will just die of something else!"

    Yes, true. If there's one thing we can probably all agree on is that in the long run, no one will be saved. Everyone will die. That's what happens to people.

    The answer is either to give up and do nothing about it, or start doing something about it, knowing that even solving a part of the problem (Malaria) isn't solving the whole problem. Do you want to move the ball forward or sit back and snipe at those who do?

    Personally -- speaking as someone who saw his father almost die of Malaria in the early 80's after returning from a trip to Kenya -- I can't see this as anything but a good thing.

  • by Ambassador Kosh ( 18352 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:13AM (#41188961)

    You could even say that they are coupled problems. If our population was not so large we would not have the kinds of climate change problems we are having.

    In many ways I think we (the west) are kind of like the greek gods in many myths. We often intend to help and do try to help but our attempts to help just make the situation worse because of unintended consequences.

    We notice that a country has starving people so we send them food. So then there are more people and their water table and other natural resources start to fail because of increased usage. We also notice more of them die from various diseases so we send cures for that which increases pressure even more.

    The basic problem I see is that you can't use western technology without also having things like western birthrates or you can have some pretty nasty consequences. I think that as we try to help africa all we are really doing right now is increasing how many people will eventually die when they exceed what we can do to try to and an unsustainable situation going.

    I am not saying we can never help people from other cultures but we have to be vastly more careful about it and realize that our technology does not exist in isolation and it is instead part of our culture and often our culture operates as a kind of control on the usage of technology. If you just hand that technology to another culture they may not have the controls for it and it can cause massive damage.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:14AM (#41188975)

    What if it kills 90% of the people who take it?

    Human trials find that drugs either work as expected, not at expected or there are serious complications from the drug that might even be worse than what it cures.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:18AM (#41189003)

    Western technology is what caused western birthrates.

    You have the whole thing backwards.

  • Re:Whack-a-mole (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:21AM (#41189057)

    These are the same morons who try to hinder nearly all human progress, they fail to realize "Perfect is the enemy of good".

    In their other forms they claim electric cars will never get better, wind power kills birds, solar power takes land and that fracking can never be done. They never consider that perfection will never be reached, but each step towards a better answer is a worthwhile step.

  • by higuita ( 129722 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:24AM (#41189083) Homepage

    Not all African countries have food problems... not all have wars... not all have democratic problems... and finally, malaria isnt restricted to Africa, it exits in south and central america and asia as you can see here []. And of course, there are countries where malaria is a higher danger than others.

    Reducing the death rate usually increase the stability of the regions in middle term (people have more to lose) and in a long term, birth rate is also decreased. Europe and North America showed this and right now, Asia is already in that way.

    Either way, this will help all and if sucess, will plug a huge unsolved problem (mostly because first world countries have no malaria, so almost no research is committed to find a cure for it)

  • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:28AM (#41189133)

    >Right, but the actual human toll, the suffering it will cause because Africa is so poor, is that suddenly made alright since tourists have one less deadly disease to worry about?

    In a round-about way, it actually might be. Tourism is one of the largest single sources of foreign capital in most African countries. Indeed for quite a few it's their single largest export- and creates a market that has among the lowest barriers of entry for some of it (anybody can set up a curio stall with relatively little start-up capital and no need to afford expensive business locales).

    So more tourists would mean less starvation.

  • by Ambassador Kosh ( 18352 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:29AM (#41189157)

    Many parts of western technology caused western birthrates, not taking one or two pieces in isolation.

    It was our food system along with education, the industrial revolution, health care and many other factors that have led to lower birth rates. You can't just take only our food technology and give it to someone else and expect it to work out.

  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:30AM (#41189161) Homepage Journal

    Birth control is made widely available in Africa, and population growth there is slowing at what can only be called a reasonable rate(i.e. current population kinda high, first derivative also kinda high, second derivative healthy negative). Your perspective is a common one towards Africa, and, in general, a kind of racist, imperialistic one.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:30AM (#41189171)

    Because malaria does not kill all its victims?
    Or this drug may not even cure malaria in humans.

    Are you this dense or just a big fan of Mengele?

  • Re:Oh good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by u38cg ( 607297 ) <> on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:34AM (#41189209) Homepage
    Let's just leave them to die of unpleasant diseases. Oh good. What a super human being you are. Did it ever occur to you that there are links between these things? Like, you know, that healthier people are richer and thus have less children? Not that that's really the point. Also, that climate is where your ancestors evolved, so your first world superiority is perhaps a little misplaced. Just being realistic here.
  • Re:ZOMBIES!!!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ciderbrew ( 1860166 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:36AM (#41189227)
    When they "cure" 95% of the Malaria. It does leave room for the drug resistant strain to thrive. Not that it is a problem as the 95% is killing the poor people regardless. I hope BIll get to spend his Billions buying up the world supply and giving out if it works. Good legacy to go out with.
  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:36AM (#41189233)

    Yes, which is why adding in this treatment gets them closer no farther away from low birth rates.

    They need more western technology not less.

    They need roads, schools, air conditioning, etc. Much like those places we are fighting in now, making sure those places had comfortable folks working 9-5 would solve a lot of problems for everyone.

  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:37AM (#41189239) Homepage Journal
    Holy shit there's a huge logical disconnect here. You seem to be assuming family planning--people have children because they want children, rather than because they want sex and children happen. Sex is a great way for poor people to get the things they need, children just come out of women somehow afterwards. Also people have the impulse to just ... have sex. Are these people really family planning, or is this all unplanned pregnancy? By saving lives, maybe we're creating an even bigger resource drain.
  • by Ambassador Kosh ( 18352 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:45AM (#41189341)

    That is why I think we should be very careful. We don't want to make problems even worse.

    I would probably give this to them with strings attached like attending school for a year, teaching them about birth control, making it freely available, helping setup sustainable ways they can help themselves etc.

    I am not saying we should not do this. I think we need to be extremely careful and try to think through our decisions not just hand out technology like candy and hope that eventually we hand out enough and the problem finally solves itself.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:52AM (#41189421)

    Perfection is the enemy of good. We can do this, we cannot reasonably do what you suggest.

    Birth control is already widely available in Africa, most African nations have some form of public education and many are working towards sustainability. Within 50 years they will have negative population growth.

    Your entire set of comments sounds like "White Man's Burden" to me. I suggest you study the continent and the problems it faces before suggesting the world treat them like savages.

  • by u38cg ( 607297 ) <> on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:11AM (#41189643) Homepage
    The drug testing regime we have was built incrementally to deal with flaws that existed in the previous setup. Remember Thalidomide?
  • by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:51AM (#41190179)

    "Here's a pill that can save your life Jonny...but first you have to promise to be good! Otherwise you can go die like all the rest."

    Seriously dude. WTF. Save the lives first. The rest comes naturally. The tighter you try to control it, the worse it will be. Just save the lives first. Then out of neccesity things start happening. So many of Africa's problems simply stem from lack of hope, lack of value of existence cause so many people simply expect to die by age 20. This is the first step to breaking that chain, and to place conditions upon it is unbelievably stupid, even evil.

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @11:27AM (#41190643)

    >> Take away one of the leading causes of childhood death, and they'll produce fewer children.

    Umm nope. They have large numbers of kids as their "pension plan" and for cultural reasons, such as religious, to attain more respect and power in the tribe (i.e. elders of larger families are more likely to become village elders), and to appear "prosperous". None of those will change just because malaria goes away.

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @11:30AM (#41190701) Homepage

    ... they'll all die of starvation anyway.

    People in this thread need to understand a few things about malaria. For starters, malaria isn't AIDS, so there's no reason to have the same prejudices about it. You don't get malaria because you're ignorant, or stupid, or religious, or poor, or you have bad morals, or you don't believe in medicine. You get it because one time, a mosquito landed on you and bit you. That's all it takes. It could happen when you're outside working in the fields or it could happen when you're indoors, in bed, asleep.

    Second, unlike AIDS, malaria doesn't go around killing everybody who gets it. In fact, a lot of people who get malaria get better. The problem is, while you're suffering from it, you are very ill. It's not, "Hey Bob, you were looking pretty rough during that PowerPoint presentation, is everything OK at home?" "Aw, well you know I got this malaria, it's really kicking my ass..." No, you are at home, in bed, covered with sweat, feeling miserable.

    Third, malaria is not chicken pox. When you get better from malaria, you don't now have immunity against malaria. There are also two forms of malaria. One form, you get better and you're fine. The other form, you only seem to be fine, but the malaria will actually come back, again and again. So people in high risk areas sometimes get sick with malaria for a two-digit percentage of their adult lives.

    So what we're talking about when we talk about curing malaria in Africa is improving the overall productivity of an entire region, not just increasing the population. Imagine what happens when you're a subsistence farmer who feeds your family by growing crops on your own land, but every 18 months you fall ill with malaria. Simple: You and your whole family starve.

    Now imagine your chances of completing a college education if you live in a malaria-stricken area. Or finishing the third grade. One Laptop Per Child won't help you if you can't get out of bed.

    People being healthy and productive isn't what causes widespread poverty and starvation. People being alive, yet unable to do even the most low-level agricultural work, let alone some kind of entrepreneurial work that can advance their community, is what causes it.

    And you know what else it causes? High birth rates. When whole communities have been reduced to poverty because of disease (among other factors), most families there will support themselves through pure physical labor. What do you need to do physical labor? Hands and strong backs. One hedge against your crops failing because you come down with malaria in harvest season is to have some children who can take over the work for you. Maybe the more the better, since children aren't adults. Also, children are more vulnerable to actually die of malaria, and it's always heartbreaking to be left childless, so more people might be disinclined to stop at one.

    Given all this, I can't imagine a single argument that would justify prolonging the suffering of Africa from malaria, in an age when we know exactly what causes it and we have the technology to prevent it. That's like saying the buildings keep burning down, but starting a fire department would be too expensive.

    Malaria was once highly prevalent in the southern United States. We mainly used civics projects to combat it -- draining swamps and the like -- and now it's all but eradicated here. Those same methods might be impractical in Africa -- medicine is probably necessary -- but the fact that no living American remembers a time when malaria was a commonplace disease in the U.S. proves that although malaria has been with mankind since the dawn of recorded history, it doesn't need to be. Like smallpox, it may be possible to eradicate it completely. Anybody who thinks that's a bad thing needs to have their head examined.

  • by eriks ( 31863 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @01:46PM (#41192453) Homepage

    Your take is a generalization, and overly simplistic, though so is the idea that simply reducing the death rate will curb population growth. The facts are totally uncontroversial. Girls education: []

    is the main way that the birth rate declines, that and access to family planning, for those women once they understand what the options are.

    We're going to be 10 billion humans by 2050, and most of the population models predict a stable population after that. Provided we can hold it all together that long... Our systems for production, government and education will need to change quite a bit to work in a world with a steady-state population. (read: a steady-state economy)

    Here's a fantastic explanation of the current models on population: []

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