FEATURE-From gene editing to death traps, Seattle scientists innovate in race to end malaria

Tue Nov 1, 2016 3:01am GMT

By Kieran Guilbert

SEATTLE, Nov 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Kayode Ojo first fell sick with malaria as a young boy in Nigeria, his grandfather shunned modern medicine, venturing into the bush to search for herbs and plants to treat the disease.

Having succumbed to malaria a further 50 or more times in his life, the United States-based scientist, now in his forties, is determined that his research - to develop a drug to stop transmission from humans back to mosquitoes - will help to eradicate the deadly disease.

"When people in Nigeria, the world's hardest-hit country, get malaria, many simply shrug their shoulders and see it as normal ... that needs to change," Ojo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a lab at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Ojo is one of thousands of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs striving to develop innovations to end malaria in a city dubbed the "Silicon Valley of saving lives", which boasts more than 160 organisations working on global health issues.

It is also home to the world's richest couple, Bill and Melinda Gates, whose global health and education charity has set the aim of eradicating the disease by 2040.

The world has made huge strides against malaria since 2000, with death rates plunging by 60 percent and at least six million lives saved globally, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Yet efforts to end one of the world's deadliest diseases - which killed an estimated 438,000 people last year - are under threat as mosquitoes become increasingly resistant to measures such as insecticide-treated bednets and anti-malarial drugs.

To combat rising resistance, Seattle's malaria-fighting community is developing innovations ranging from data modelling and genetic modification to single-dose drugs and sugar traps.   Continued...

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