The International Herald Tribune reports that Chinese physicians and researchers are set to test an innovative new tactic in the fight against malaria. The idea is to "take the medical world's last line of defense against malaria, the drug artemisinin, and dispense it in combination with another drug as a mass treatment to the 40,000 people living on Moheli Island, a small island off the east coast of Africa where the disease in endemic."
The human malaria parasite infects only people and female mosquitoes, the means of transmission. Mosquitoes, however, have a lifespan of only 30 days. The researchers believe that if the population-wide treatment is administered again 40 days later, then the parasite will be largely cleared from the population's blood. Subsequent isolated infections could be treated individually.
The big worry about this technique is whether it will accelerate resistance to artemisinin. The Chinese team doesn't believe their technique is any riskier than the current patchwork of how the drug is administered, and early results from their work in Cambodia have been promising.
On a related note, Policy Innovations recently covered some of the issues surrounding health innovation, intellectual property, and access to medicines:
Prizes, Not Patents
By Joseph Stiglitz
WHO Pushes Pharmaceutical Innovation
By Saul Gomez
Patents, Compulsory License and Access to Medicines
By Martin Khor