Thursday, July 5, 2007

Malaria today

and homeopathic travesties

“Malaria now affects more people than ever before. It’s endemic to 106 nations, threatening half the world’s population.”

National Geographic Magazine has an excellent cover story discussing the scourge of malaria throughout human history including the present plight of so many. Unlike other diseases (polio, smallpox, plague…etc), malaria will affect nearly half a billion people, mostly in Africa, where there are strains resistant to most antimalarial drugs.

Michael Finkel describes in detail many of the complex issues regarding this disease, its control, and the often excruciating failures in combating and managing this ancient disease, including mismanaged population growth and socio-economic pressures that have exacerbated today’s sad state of affairs.

However, there are now promising campaigns designed to regain the upper hand. Zambia, for example, has implemented a national campaign utilizing a combination of pesticides, mosquito nets, and artemisinin*-based combination therapies (ACT), and is looking to possible future novel vaccinations in a bid to do battle against this “archenemy”.

The article is a well put together description of malarial treatments appropriately emphasizing national pubic health strategies that hold the most promise for establishing a firm therapeutic beachhead. Unfortunately it fails to mention some of the more egregious approaches pretending to “treat” malaria, but succeeding only in misdirecting meager resources towards worthless therapies.

One salient example is the SHEAF Trust, an organization with the following goals:

The Sheaf Trust aims are:

Professional training in naturopathy/homeopathy

Healthcare in Africa using complementary and traditional remedies

Training local people in the use of homeopathy, for emergencies and acute situations

The education of local people in basic nursing skills, nutrition and home-based care”

Le Canard discusses the travesty of homeopathic malarial treatments and the dangerous implications they bring in a continent that is in desperate need of real and effective therapies. His subsequent post discusses iatrogenic medicine in a proper context and describes the concept of a more dangerous homeopathic iatrogenesis- a dangerous modality lacking any reality base, tools, or self correcting mechanisms that lead ever better and more effective treatments. In fact these critical components seem anathema to homeopathy (and CAM) in general.

As the true battle against malaria takes form, we need to keep present those, who through ignorance or self interest, strive to stifle and diminish the honest and open scientific discourse that promises to save so many lives.

* In fact, artemisinin derived from the sweet wormwood is one of the success stories of historical herbal medicine. It has been incorporated into the modern armamentarium because it works, like so many other plant based active ingredients.

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