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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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jolyonr ( 560227 )

      ... 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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 resou

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

          Western technology is what caused western birthrates.

          You have the whole thing backwards.

          • 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 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.

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                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

                • 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 geekoid ( 135745 )

                    haha, not unless there culture undergoes a massive shift it it's very core.
                    Birth control is available, but there is s stigma. We are talking about places where anytime a something comes up to give women power over reproduction.
                    And of course the Chinese are buying them up like crazy, so I expect they will soon be under paid miners and farmers.

                    ". I suggest you study the continent and the problems it faces"
                    right back at you.

                • 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.

                • teaching them about birth control,

                  There are religious fundamentalists, both in the USA and Africa, who are against this.
                  And even if you could get programs started, there are significant cultural hurdles to overcome before anyone will actually use birth control.

          • Western way of life caused western birthrates.

          • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )

            Western technology is what caused western birthrates.

            You have the whole thing backwards.

            Wrong punchy.
            Education lowers birthrates. Not western tech. You can feed, cure, and entertain to your hearts content, but it is teaching people, particularly girls and women, that causes them not to pop out 20 babies.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fertility_and_intelligence [wikipedia.org]
            http://www.earth-policy.org/data_highlights/2011/highlights13 [earth-policy.org]
            http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2010/07/from_the_cuttin_2.html [econlib.org]

      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        >> One could argue these two problems may eventually even each other out -

        Nope because the west will respond with food aid.

      • Overpopulation correlates with poverty and a high mortality rate. That seems like a contradiction, but it's not. What you want in a society is quality, not quantity in a society. Keep them safe and educated with a high standard of living and watch the population rate drop.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jimicus ( 737525 )

      One of the biggest reasons for having lots of children is because so many die in infancy.

      Something similar was the case in the Western world as recently as the late 19th century - while it may be difficult to dig out reliable records, things like old family bibles are a great way to learn about children who only lived maybe a couple of years. If your family has anything like this, you might be surprised how many aunts and uncles you would have if they'd all survived.

    • 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 [wikipedia.org]. 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)

      • Actually it used to be quite common in parts of the US as well. It used to be called ague [merriam-webster.com]. I'm not sure of it's original range, but I think it was even as far north as Ohio. There are variants like avian malaria which have been a barrier to reintroducing eagles [eagles.org] and other species.
    • 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.

      • 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.

        Every time I read comments like the GP, I wonder if the same people would also have objected to distributing the smallpox vaccine in Africa.

    • In addition to your (probably racist) assumptions about the intelligence and self-restraint of people in sub-Saharan Africa, you apparently don't understand population dynamics. A large part of the reason people in poor countries produce as many children as they do is the high mortality rate. If there's a 1-in-8 chance of each of your children dying before the age of 5, and higher that they'll die before adulthood, you have an incentive to produce more children than you would if they were almost certain t

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        "the reason people in poor countries produce as many children as they do is the high mortality rate. "
        no. It's high buy US standards, but it's not so high as to need to have 8 kids.
        There is a culture issue about having kids, and women in Africa have it really hard when it comes to controlling their reproduction.

        FYI infant mortality in Sub saharan region is 80 per 1000 as of Jan '08

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        >> 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.

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

      One of the reasons why people in the developing world get so many children is the high child mortatlity. I doubt any family (outside certain religious circles) actually wants to shoulder the very significant burden of bringing up many children to adulthood. If you are confident that your children will survive, then it makes much more sense to invest your efforts in just a few.

    • As long as the fundamentalist Protestant preachers and wacky Catholic missionaries from America and Europe get the fuck out of Africa and leave people alone with their stupid ideas about contraception being a sin and abstinence being the only way.

      Those guys should go to jail. Their stupid ideas have probably killed millions of people already. They like to preach in Africa because nobody listens to them in their home countries (well, maybe in the USA).

    • 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.

    • Unless you can give everyone birth control they'll all die of starvation anyway.

      One of the more effective forms of birth control is lowering infant and child mortality - like, ya know from malaria.

      But, don't let me stop your subtle dismissal of the behaviours of an entire continent. Have fun at the Klan rally.

      It's in Tampa this year, isn't it?

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

      This is silly and absolute Malthusian nonsense. It's not how many kids a country or region has, but how well they support themselves and use their resources and grow their economies. Some parts of Africa are doing quite well, thanks, feeding growing populations as they learn modern agricultural techniques and develop markets for foodstuffs that increase production and efficiency and lower costs. The United States went from a population of around 15 million to over 300 million in just over two hundred years.

  • Not so fast (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:01AM (#41188875)
    I here apple has a patent on round edible things.
  • Tonic water? (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by scubamage ( 727538 )
    Seriously, can't we just ship a few pallets of tonic water over? It's an effective treatment, and as a bonus healthcare workers can take some beefeater and have a lovely after-work nightcap.
  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:09AM (#41188921) Homepage

    There's one other "teensy weensy little hurdle": the cost. Or more precisely: the price. If this is something that WHO or other health agencies can purchase and dispense for a few cents per dose, it could revolutionize life in sub-Saharan Africa. If it's patent-protected and expensive... not so much.

  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:18AM (#41189001) Journal

    As certain folks on here will tell you, this is just a money grab by evil pharmaceutical companies. These poor souls in Africa will be forced to take these tablets simply so the evil companies can make a profit.

    This could have been done a long time ago, and without companies making a profit, but it's been put off because of the conspiracy between government and evil corporations to keep the man down by making him pay for medications which can wipe out a disease/affliction/whatever.

    As this is purely a profit-driven exercise, it must be shouted down and demonstrations made to prevent this tablet from being used.

    Oh, and since this involves use of evolutionary doctrine, we need to get the Christian community in an uproar because this goes against the Almighty's will. If he didn't want malaria to exist, he wouldn't have created it to torment humans. Trying to find a way to prevent/cure malaria is an assault on religion and must be stopped.

    Did I cover everything?

    • You missed the chance to suggest that the pharmas would crush the cure in order to sell continuing treatments.

    • No problem. It's a medicine, not a vaccine. We don't want all those poor Africans suffering from autism, do we?
  • Too early to rejoice (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wdi ( 142463 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:32AM (#41189187)

    Note that there has been *zero* human testing yet, not even phase 1 tests on healthy human subjects. From among the compounds that make it to that stage, maybe one in 50 or 100 (!) really makes it to market.

    Aminopyridines (the class this new compound is from) have known pharmaceutical uses - and some compounds of this class have severe side effects, such as causing epileptic seizures that are difficult to reproduce in animals. .And its pretty reactive amino group is a general red flag.

    But of course I wish the researchers luck with their tests.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Have there been in of those issue that weren't the result of overdose?

    • by nbauman ( 624611 )

      Humans are just big mice, right?

      These guys deserve kudos for drug discovery, but as you say it's a long way from animals to humans. They don't even know whether it's safe in humans. Another big question is, how fast will the parasites develop resistance?

      They would be doing pretty well if it turns into another artemisinin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemisinin [wikipedia.org] and if it does, they deserve a Lasker too. But even artemisin can't be used as monotherapy, because it can develop resistance.

  • It works a lot better than Lariam/Mefloquine.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500164_162-538144.html [cbsnews.com]

  • like they did in TFA: No, No, DDT isn't banned [pops.int] when used to combat malaria.

  • by Quila ( 201335 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:56AM (#41190237)

    He wants population control, and here we are working to eliminate a major natural population control mechanism.

    Millions of dead kids = good for the environment.

  • ...I hope they also figured out how to increase the food supply by 25%, if we're going to cut the mortality rate.

    • When people have a greater expectation that their children will grow up, they have fewer children, especially if their religion doesn't forbid birth control.
  • Can we give it to the mosquitos?
  • If you are concerned about population consider India, more people than Africa and 1/15 the area.

  • Productivity boom (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Beyond the savings in human lives, there should be a productivity boom. Malaria is contracted periodically in adulthood by people in an environment where it is prevalent, and it can wipe out an individual's productivity for a couple weeks at a time, several times a year. In some areas, it can be contracted with the same frequency with which westerners are used to the common cold. So, you're looking at perhaps a 10% increase in productivity just from keeping adults at work instead of in their sickbed or t

  • Malaria is so common in Africa that most Africans don't consider it to be that big of a deal. You get malaria, go to the doctor and take some medication and then get better. Over time, your immune system will be more resistant to malaria so you don't get as sick.

    Malaria is a serious disease for those who don't have access to medicine and is left untreated for a period of time. A new medication is not going to help much if people don't have access to it.

  • Sounds like South Africa has their own version of the FDA [eprci.net]. Millions will die while they wait for the bureaucrats, but at least they die safely!

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"