Rotarians do their bit to help limit impact of malaria
By Ian Ada - President
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable.
In 2020, there were an estimated 241 million cases of malaria and 627,000 deaths worldwide. Africa carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden.
In 2020, the region was home to 95 per cent of malaria cases and 96 per cent of malaria deaths. Children under five accounted for about 80 per cent of all malaria deaths on the continent.
Controlling the activity of mosquitoes is a vital component of malaria control and elimination strategies as it is highly effective in preventing infection and reducing disease transmission. The two core interventions are insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying.
Rotarians Against Malaria (RAM) was initiated by a Rotarian in New South Wales in the early 1990s who was concerned about the surge in malaria incidence after the discontinuation of DDT-based malaria control programs. The primary focus of RAM has been the distribution of insecticide-treated nets to vulnerable populations in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and more recently, Timor Leste.
RAM has raised more than $1.6 million to eliminate malaria since 2003. It works in conjunction with the Ministry of Health authorities in each country and complements the work of other malaria organisations.
There are now RAM committees in each of the 21 Rotary districts in Australia, which raise funds to support programs to control and eliminate malaria. The Rotary Club of Carlton has provided funds to the committee in our district for the past 15 to 20 years. In lieu of a gift to guest speakers at our meetings, the club also donates the value of an insecticide-treated net to the program on their behalf.
At our club meeting on October 11 Professor Geoff McFadden spoke about his latest research which has thrown up a surprising finding, opening the way to some novel approaches for studying and combating malaria.
His research has shown, quite unexpectedly, that plasmodium, the parasite responsible for malaria, is related to algae and contains a plastid – the chloroplast organelle that is responsible for photosynthesis in algae and higher plants.
Finding plastids in parasites of humans has rewritten their evolutionary history showing malaria parasites were once photosynthetic organisms (like algae or plants). They converted to parasitism hundreds of millions of years ago but kept their plastids, which are now non-photosynthetic.
Geoff’s team has identified many new drug targets in the plastid of malaria parasites, vastly increasing the number of strategies for the development of much needed new anti-malarial drugs.
The Rotary Club of Carlton now has an evening meeting on the third Tuesday of each month at Naughtons Hotel, Royal Parade, Parkville commencing at 6.30pm.
Ian Ada - president, Rotary Club of Carlton