Friday, 5 March 2010

Malaria and Kent

St Augustine one of Kent’s famous landings died from malaria. It’s not clear whether it was from catching it in Rome or in Thanet. With a warmer climate – even vineyards – and a marshy island it’s perfectly possible that Thanet was malarial.

The range of malaria victims is also astonishing:

And while with TB, Margate’s Sea Bathing Hospital was a well-known hospital for what was known as consumption, and the disease seems almost compulsory for Britons such as Oliver Cromwell and Florence Nightingale – and unusually even Tom Jones the singer

While malaria has already been the recipient of 5 Nobel Prizes for Medicine:

I can’t see any reason why with Thanet’s heritage in medicine and Europe’s largest medical research facility with Pfizer, research in Kent into Malaria and TB eradication with the UN Millennium Development Goals shouldn’t yield not just medical breakthroughs but also mass –production of vaccines and foreign factories for increased manufacture.

The current problem for pharma companies is that the market is in “Western diseases” which are largely cosmetic or lifestyle eg athlete’s foot, and the temptation is to chase another cholesterol drug rather than the world’s main killers of Malaria, TB and HIV.

The Pfizer South Africa website for example

shows an emphasis on diseases that are the supposedly preserve of the healthy and wealthy – yet Malaria, TB and HIV kill 6 million people across the world each year.

6 million. Every year. The population of Britain destroyed every decade – how many Asian Beckham’s, Latin American Shakespeare’s or African Churchill’s gone.

We’re in danger of missing an opportunity not just to create jobs and full employment with Pfizer and a “2nd Pfizer” eg Glaxo – but create research expertise and production facilities for vaccines, nets and medical procedures that are world-leading. And with a market of half the world’s population I’d be astonished if Pfizer couldn’t turn a dollar or two into the bargain.

Full employment in a growth market and areas such as pharma is not impossible by any means. Nor the related industries such as water filters, bacteria and parasite diseases, vaccination programmes, public health training, exchange programmes, research papers and conferences.

One restrictive point in the last decade or two has been a reliance on TRIPS patent protection legislation – but what the UN Millennium Goals and Dohar Round and TRIPS reform, and Call to Action shows, Pfizer are already doing much to ensure research and vaccines can be developed for what are Victorian diseases that were eradicated here 50 or 100 years ago – and already 50 jobs created with Peakdale and new research labs.

With warmer climates we may well need that valuable research in the future for ourselves. While contaminated drinking water supplies and discharge from Thor and Infratil into Pegwell Bay and possibly Tivoli Brook demonstrates how far and how quickly things can fail jeopardising lives and livelihoods now and in the future.

How many deaths and how much illness before cleanup even begins? How many corners to be cut? How much regulation to be faked or rubber-stamped?

While most of the world may not have an NHS with free medical care, nor free schools an education, surely the opportunity in Thanet is for our teachers to work with Pfizer to create education and training programmes for the children of Thanet and those abroad.

I learnt as a child about Curie and Koch and the public health programmes of the likes of local government officials such as Joseph Chamberlain – with a duty of care before a legislative requirement – it would be a failing if the children of Kent did not learn of the UN Millennium Goals and the HIV and TB and Malaria programmes on their doorstep – whether it be the chemistry, history, biology or geography of the last three great plagues.

1 comment:

DrM. said...

Malaria was endemic in Italy at the time and there are well recorded incidents of large population loss and infant mortality.

Quite possible, I would think, that he contracted it there before coming to England.

It's also possible that Malaria moved further north during the time of "The little climatic optimum' during the 9th and 10th centuries when Greenland was warm enough to be settled.