On 30th November 2011 the peer-review Journal "PLoS ONE" published a study that is an important milestone in our long term campaign for a ban on the insecticide DDT and implementation of cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives in the fight against malaria.
The study was developed by authors from the Millennium Institute (US) and the University of Bergen (Norway) with funding from Biovision - Foundation for ecological Development (Switzerland and Kenya). The study is based on a systemic modelling of malaria and the complex dynamics that exist within this system (e.g., population growth, economic development, breeding sites of mosquitoes, etc.).
It shows that:
First, the current mix of interventions with a focus on Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) and Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) is not the most efficient use of resources. Instead a focus on environmental management with the reduction of mosquito breeding sites and the treatment of breeding sites, is more efficient. An integrated approach in the form of Integrated Vector Management (IVM), which also tackles the root sources of the disease (i.e., breeding sites), would be more effective.
Second, the study shows that dynamic software-based models can inform a more efficient use of resources in malaria control programmes. Such models allow to consider complex interdependencies, while ensuring that no interventions are chosen that would worsen the situation. As one example: The use of the insecticide DDT in Northern Uganda had as a consequence that small-scale farmers could not sell their products anymore, which increased their poverty and reduced their means to effectively protect themselves from malaria (see also, New York Times article available online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/19/world/africa/19uganda.html?pagewanted=all)
Finally, thePLoS One study shows that a phase-out of DDT is feasible and would even have economic advantages for countries that still use DDT. Moreover, the authors demonstrate that a phase-out of DDT is more favourable than the possible economic consequences from contamination of agricultural export products, and with that an export stop. The international community is negotiating on ways to reduce reliance on DDT, and eventually phase-out its use, within the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. According to the convention, DDT use is still allowed for malaria vector control, if effective, affordable, and safe alternatives are not available.