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U.K.'s malaria initiative under fire

By Sarah Boseley

LONDON, DEC. 6. Two eminent malaria scientists have sent a letter to the British Finance Minister, Gordon Brown, criticising his decision to fund a future vaccine against a disease, which they say, could be wiped out from parts of Africa right now with cheap drugs.

`Misguided action'

The two professors say that Mr. Brown's announcement that the U.K. Government would pre-buy 300 million doses of a vaccine being developed by the British drug company GlaxoSmithKline at a cost of 3 billions to the taxpayer is a misguided good intention.

``Malaria really can and should be conquered — and we now have the necessary tools to do the job,'' they write. ``We are concerned therefore that, while millions of people suffer every year, you are proposing allocating precious funds to a future uncertainty.''

Nick White, professor of tropical medicine at Bangkok and Oxford universities, and Bob Snow, professor of tropical public health at the Kenyan Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, and Oxford University, say that simple interventions such as free bed-nets to keep malarial mosquitoes away from children at night and new but cheap drugs based on the artimisinin plant grown in China could eliminate malaria.

Two approaches

Two approaches could save more than one in five childhood deaths, they write. Bednets impregnated with insecticide cost under two pounds. New combination drugs being brought in to replace old drugs like chloroquine, to which the malaria parasite has become resistant, cost less than 50 pence to treat a child.

- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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