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Australia 'Insidious' disease could find its way to Australia

04:05  24 november  2019
04:05  24 november  2019 Source:   9news.com.au

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a close up of a map: Malaria transmission occurs in five WHO regions.© World Health Organisation Malaria transmission occurs in five WHO regions. When her only son was just six weeks old, Benishar Kombut was forced to helplessly watch as he sweated profusely and his eyes rolled back in his head.

The Papua New Guinea woman knew instantly what was wrong. Tapia had come down with a silent killer, a disease that she herself had fought more than five times: malaria.

The mosquito-borne illness attacks the liver and red blood cells. It kills hundreds of thousands every year.

The family rushed Tapia to a local clinic where he received treatment. If they had not, there was chance he would have died – it's estimated that 1200 children die each day from the disease.

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Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system. It results from damage to the nerve cells in the brain that is vital for the smooth control of muscles and movement. healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

That was until 2011 when an insidious disease altered the course of my mom’s life. The doctors ran a series of tests, uncertain of what the issue could be. The feeling of not knowing what plagued her frightened us both. My mom was lucky to find ways to help herself, but others are not so fortunate.

"We are doing our best in preventing him from getting another episode," Ms Kombut told 9news.com.au.

"He's now three, and is not affected by the bout he got. I first got malaria when I was seven, and have had it over five times since. Usually, it causes me to become bedridden for two to three days and I can hardly do anything and enjoy time with my family."

Ms Kombut has dedicated her life to eradicating the disease, and alongside award-winning Australian scientist and Director and CEO of Burnet Institute, Professor Brendan Crabb, she has made inroads in that fight.

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Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia , is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands.

"We still don't have that magic-bullet vaccine, but we're much closer to it now," Professor Crabb told 9news.com.au

"I've had malaria twice myself as I grew up in PNG, while you can kill the parasite once you've gotten it, the recovery time can be huge. My two cases were easily month-long recovery times – no school, no work."

Professor Crabb said that malaria is part of a group of diseases that keep people poor.

"Imagine my day off school and work – multiplied by 600,000 across just the tropics. You can't break out of that cycle, it keeps whole nations poor due to lost productivity. Malaria can be incredibly debilitating."

The fight against malaria

This year, Professor Crabb was awarded the prestigious 2019 GSK Award for Research Excellence. He's been leading the charge to find the next generation of treatments and vaccines for malaria.

Professor Crabb was involved in the technical breakthrough of DNA "transfection" of the malaria parasite.

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Australia was connected to New Guinea and the Kimberley region of Western Australia was The impact of disease and the settlers' industries had a profound impact on the Indigenous Australians ' In the later 19th century, settlers made their way north and into the interior, appropriating small but

Transfection is a tool that enables scientists to manipulate the genome of the parasite. By tweaking the parasite's DNA, scientists can discover which mutations are responsible for drug resistance and what parts can be targeted by new medicines and vaccines.

"After winning the award I felt tremendously positive that there was a focus on a group of people who are poor and suffer and are largely invisible," he said.

"We in Australia don't recognise malaria – I'm not sure why we don't, because the human tragedy is immense. Imagine the 1,2000 families today that lost their children. It's happening on our doorstep - through PNG, the Solomon Islands and more."

One of the issues in treating malaria to date, is that in some regions some drugs work, while in others they don't.

"It's because the parasites can develop a resistance, so then you have to change the drug you use. You have to keep developing new drugs," Professor Crabb said.

"It may seem a long road but the scale of malaria and the scale of the problem is worth considering. It's probably the biggest health problem humans have ever faced."

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It protects against meningitis epidemics of a particularly insidious kind (group A meningococcal meningitis), which can cause severe brain damage or long-term Meningococcal meningitis epidemics could be eliminated from Africa if a vaccine were developed to cover all its disease -causing varieties.

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How malaria could spread to Australia

a close up of an animal: Only certain species of mosquitoes of the Anopheles genus —and only females of those species— can transmit malaria.. (James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)© AP/AAP Only certain species of mosquitoes of the Anopheles genus —and only females of those species— can transmit malaria.. (James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Malaria used to be found in the Northern Territory, but effective treatment and prompt diagnosis, meant the region was declared malaria-free in 1981.

While mainland Australia is currently free from the disease, the region of northern Australia above 19° S latitude is said to still be in the receptive zone for malaria transmission.

Approximately 700-800 cases occur throughout the nation each year, due to travellers visiting other infected countries. However, with a warming climate Professor Crabb said there is a possibility malaria could become endemic in Australia.

"There's a threat of mosquito-borne diseases going anywhere that gets hotter and wetter. The climate is obviously changing and we're seeing mosquitoes go to different places. We're already seeing mosquitoes that were once not at a certain altitude in the tropics, going up higher in the mountains."

"I felt tremendously positive that there was a focus on a group of people who are poor and suffer and are largely invisible."

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