Oct 042008

I was going to bash Paul Driessen’s article about malaria and DDT at townhall.com. Good thing I went back and actually read it first.

I was going to complain about my fellow conservatives who rightly complain about, say, fixing education by throwing money at it, but who then turn around and want to fix malaria by indiscriminantly throwing DDT at it. And that they don’t take into account the issue of mosquito resistance, which can develop faster under indiscriminate spraying.

That would not have been fair to Driessen, who seems not to advocate blanket spraying. Whether he would agree with the Integrated Pest Management people, I don’t know, but he seems not to be one of those who wants to spray mindlessly. And he did mention the issue of resistance.

Normally the thing would be to keep quiet about having jumped to conclusions before reading. But while thinking about a reply, I found a good article in Bug Girls’ Blog that I want to link here for future reference: DDT, Junk Science, and insecticide resistance.

And there’s an item I found several days ago when discussing this issue in another forum. Dreissen’s article said that except on rare occasions, researchers aren’t looking into how mosquito bednets are actually working. I presume this is one of the rare exceptions. (I happen to know one of the researchers on this study.)

  • Thanks for linking to the resistance post–I’m glad you found it useful.

    I didn’t think Driessen’s article was good at all, frankly. It recycles a lot of the old lines, quotes some of the usual suspects, and makes several misstatements.

    I can’t see how anyone can think that the use of bed nets is not being well studied. Papers come out almost weekly–4 last week alone. (Yeah, I’m behind in my writing at the bug blog 🙂

    He quotes Roberts, who is part of CEI, and then also says that several newspapers had editorials in favor of DDT–and omits to say they were almost verbatim from the CEI news releases.

    It just seems like it’s written by someone who acknowledges it might not be a good idea…but can’t let it go anyway and seek a better one.

  • There’s a consistency: Most people who urge more use of DDT assume it’s cheaper and easier. That’s no longer so, especially since DDT is no longer effective in many applications.

    Gates Foundation and WHO efforts to fight malaria by all means are carefully tracked. DDT spraying in Uganda has been found largely ineffective in this last season, though why that is so is not clear. There was a lot of opposition to DDT use — ironically, opposition from conservative businessmen. They sued to stop the spraying.

    But universally, across Africa, bednets have proven dramatically effective in reducing malaria infections.

    There’s an article in the current Newsweek that discusses the fight against malaria, and which says there is much hope. Check it out.