Malaria is a disease of the poor

Anyone truly worried about malaria in impoverished countries would do well to focus on improving human living conditions, not the weather, say Paul Reiter, director of the Insects and Infectious Diseases Unit of the Institute Pasteur, Paris, and Roger Bate, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

The globalisation of vectors and pathogens is a serious problem, but it is not new, say Reiter and Bate:

  • The Yellow Fever mosquito and virus were imported into North America from Africa during the slave trade.

  • The dengue virus is distributed throughout the tropics and regularly jumps continents inside air passengers.

  • West Nile virus likely arrived in the United States in shipments of wild birds.

    The concept of malaria as a "tropical" infection is nonsense, say Rieter and Bate, it is a disease of the poor. Meanwhile, malaria has been increasing at an alarming rate in parts of Africa and elsewhere in the world:

  • Scientists ascribe this increase to many factors, including population growth, deforestation, rice cultivation in previously uncultivated upland marshes, clustering of populations around these marshes, and large numbers of people who have fled their homes because of civil strife.

  • The evolution of drug-resistant parasites and insecticide-resistant mosquitoes, and the cessation of mosquito-control operations are also factors.

    Of course, temperature is a factor in the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases, and future incidence may be affected if the world's climate continues to warm. But throughout history the most critical factors in the spread or eradication of disease has been human behaviour and living standards. Poverty has been and remains the world's greatest killer, say Reiter and Bate.

    Source: Paul Reiter and Roger Bate, More Global Warming Nonsense,,/i> Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2008.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 16 April 2008
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