Fishing for ways to fight malaria

Helen Palmer Aug 9, 2007


Scott Jagow: You ever had Tilapia? It’s a pretty tasty fish. Well, it was until I heard about this: Tilapia eat mosquito larvae. In Africa, this is apparently a great way to fight Malaria. Helen Palmer reports from our Health Desk at WGBH.

Helen Palmer: Malaria is a huge global health problem across Africa, Asia and Latin America. There are as many as 500 million cases every year.

Patrick Kachur: It is a huge problem globally. It kills in the neighborhood of a million people every year, and the vast majority of those are children under the age of 5.

Patrick Kachur of the CDC’s malaria branch says there’s a global need for more ways to fight the disease, because the malaria parasite’s increasingly resistant to current drugs. He says fish could be a useful addition to mosquito nets treated with insecticide.

Dan Milner of the Harvard School of Public health says fish wouldn’t address the main source of the problem.

Dan Milner: The vast burden of mosquito population is really these small stagnant pools of water in and around their dwellings and their food production sources which are not going to support fish life.

The WHO calculates that in countries with high rates of disease malaria accounts for 40 percent of health spending. Malaria costs about a billion dollars a year in lost productivity.

In Boston, I’m Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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