Because of warmer temperatures and over use of pesticides, insecticides and even war, insect populations are growing at an unprecedented rate. Recent research suggests an extra 20 million insects for each and every one of us. This equates to 220 million insects for every human being alive today!
It is no wonder then that more people are contracting malaria than 30 years ago. Today there is a 42% chance of malaria returning to the UK. This figure is predicted to rise to over 80% in the not too distant future, making it a statistical certainty that malaria will return to Britain in most of out lifetimes!
Malaria is mainly a disease of poverty therefore most deaths are from the poorest parts of the world. In fact up to 5,000 people a day die from it. However, no one is immune to it and more people are contracting this disease in the West than 30 years ago.
Unfortunately, the malarial drugs are not working effectively anymore. The most effective drug we have at the moment against Plasmodium falciparum is Artemisinin, derived like many wonder drugs, from a natural source – Artemisia annua or the Sweet Wormwood Bush in this case. This is best administered as Artemisinin Combination Thereapy (ACT) so that the parasite does not get resistant to it – in theory.
However, on the Thai-Cambodian border and elsewhere in SE Asia resistance has already started and so this last line of defence has been compromised. There is nothing more in the pipeline so the only hope to eek out this drug is to use it responsibly in a sustainable way by only taking ACT if it is absolutely necessary. It is so much better to avoid getting bitten in the first place and it is possible by washing and using insect repellents (Preferably natural ones!) properly. Although from past experience this is unlikely to happen.
There are many other insect-borne diseases that are on the increase and it is only by stabalising the global temperature that we will be able to get a handle on these deadly diseases. So, we all need to know how to protect ourselves from getting bitten sooner rather than later.