Wednesday, 2 July 2003

Rome (Fides Service) – In a few weeks time a European project based on partnership with Africa will begin testing drugs and vaccines to treat and prevent the diseases of the poor: malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis. Over the recent months, researchers and experts from 14 countries of the EU (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, greet Ireland, Italy, Holland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Spain and Sweden) plus Norway have worked in close contact with African scientists to ensure the project is made to measure to meet the needs of countries affected by AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. The European Developing Countries, Clinical Trial Partnership, EDCTP has three main objectives: build a network of cooperation to connect national programmes in participant countries; test new molecules already discovered but not yet tested due to Africa being a not profitable market for pharmaceutical companies, accelerating in this way the passage from results of basic research to those of applied research; enhance potential for clinical research in developing countries, simulating effective and indispensable participation. AP (Fides Service 2/7/2003 EM lines 19 Words: 206)


It is all caused by a mosquito, or rather a unicellular microorganism found in the mosquito’s stomach and saliva glands. The mosquito is of the Anopheles type, while the parasite is called Plasmodia and it is the most ferocious of the four existing species - falciparum, vivax, oval and malarial. When this mosquito bites a human begin it injects Plasmodia into the blood where it finds a favourable ambient for reproduction. It begins to produce parasites every 48 to 72 hours causing in a short time the start of the disease. If another mosquito bites and infected person Plasmodia passes to the healthy insect which in turn becomes a carrier of malaria. This is multiplied for millions of human beings and mosquitoes. Sometimes the disease is transmitted with blood transfusions, occasionally from mother to foetus during pregnancy. Malaria is also very sensitive to climatic changes, especially increases temperature and humidity. It is not surprising therefore that it is most widespread in the warmest areas of the world and that it reaches its highest point during rainy season. Symptoms depend on the type of Plasmodia responsible and they range from fever, bone and muscle pain, headache, vomiting and convulsions, to anaemia and enlargement of the spleen. A typical attack starts with a half-hour cold phase followed by a hot phase with temperatures around 42 degrees Celsius which may last between 3 to 8 hours and is followed by a state of sweating which leads to a sudden drop in temperature. Plasmodia falciparum can also attack the brain and produce the most serious type of malaria, cerebral or pernicious malaria, which produces a state of confusion and delirium, possibly coma and, if the symptoms are neglected, death. Today malaria affects the poorest countries, mainly in Africa, but 50 years ago it still infested Europe and the United States. In Italy malaria was found in the outskirts of Rome, the Po delta and the island of Sardinia. It was eliminate in industrialised countries and also some tropical countries such as India, thanks to extensive use of DDT and certain anti-malaria medicines. But the success of this strategy was short lived: the banning of DDT and development of resistance to the medicines used caused in hot and poor countries a rapid increase in death and morbidity rates. Today 1,400 genes of Anopheles gambiae are known, some involved in the insect’s defence system against the parasite, others in the elimination of substances contained in pesticides, still others in the animal’s attraction to human blood. Fourteen chromosomes and 5,300 genes of the Plasmodia have been identified, mostly involved in the process which allows the Plasmodia to prevent the reaction of the victim’s immune system and to assume a different guise in every infection. (Fides Service 2/7/2003 EM lines 38 Words: 478)