The malaria parasite has been responsible for half of all human deaths since the Stone Age, and one in 14 of us alive today still carry genes that first arose to help protect us from its ravages. Malaria has shaped our trade and settlement patterns, and our demographics. Today, it sickens 300 million every year, and kills nearly 1 million, despite the fact that we’ve known how to cure it (with parasite-killing drugs) and prevent it (by avoiding mosquito bites) for over a century. And even as the fight against malaria gains momentum, research reveals that malaria’s tentacles continue to dig ever deeper.
And don’t forget, evolution is bullshit … right?
Malaria parasites have rapidly evolved resistance to every drug we’ve thrown at the disease, including, over the past few years, those based on artemisinin, the first-line drug currently recommended by the WHO. But the truth is that less than a quarter of people with malaria visit health centers for treatment anyway, studies show. In a study conducted in Burkina Faso, German epidemiologists found that 20% of malaria patients are prescribed the wrong drugs at the wrong doses, 10% don’t bother buying the drugs they’re prescribed and more than 30% don’t take the drugs as prescribed.
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