Curioser and curioser… AFM wants me to blog about DDT

8 08 2007

I wonder if anyone else received a similar e-mail that just arrived in my inbox; Philip Coticelli of the group Africa Fighting Malaria mentions a new study that has come out in PLoS ONE called “A New Classification System for the Actions of IRS Chemicals Traditionally Used For Malaria Control.” The message I received featured the headline “DDT Highly Effective Against Resistant Mosquitoes: New study recommends using DDT to control #1 killer of African children: malaria,” so where the AFM stands on DDT use seems pretty clear.

I assume I was contacted because I mentioned how National Geographic made some errors in their cover story on Malaria over a month ago, although Bug Girl and Ed Darrell are probably much more capable bloggers to handle this one. Still, when I get the chance I’ll have a look at the article and write up some thoughts, despite that fact that even if DDT has proven effective against mosquitoes thought to be resistant, the efficacy of the product doesn’t assuage my concerns about its toxicity.


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5 responses

8 08 2007
Ed Darrell

I got it, too. I thought they must be using some sort of search bot to get e-mail addresses.

The article’s scientific findings are not particularly ground shaking, I don’t think. But it suggests that if we regard DDT as an insect repellant, instead of an insect killer, it rates higher on the list of things to use in an integrated pest management scheme.

I suppose, if one were being snarky, one would note that DDT isn’t as good at killing mosquitoes as some of the anti-science people claim it is; and, one could note that DDT has been misused all these years by its advocates — it’s better as an insect repellant. It looks to me as if the funding to organize the campaign against Rachel Carson doesn’t have much use other than fancy mailings, and so the campaign is seizing on any piece of news that might possibly be twisted against Rachel Carson, and this is the best news that’s come along in research in some time, for them.

But I’m cynical.

9 08 2007
Bug Girl

I did get it, and I thought it was a very strange paper. They tested DDT against two compounds with no known repellent values, and–surprise! It did very well, *comparatively*.

The thing that really set my antennae twitching was using dieldrin in the tests. That stuff is nasty! I suppose someone, somewhere, is still using it, but it’s a terrible idea. Lots of known poisonings.

The other odd thing was that he suggested a new system in which we consider DDT as a repellent, rather than a insecticide. There is no reason currently it can’t be classified as both.
(And, as a repellent, it doesn’t do that well. )

I’m going to work on something longer this afternoon, and see if I can get a couple of buddies to tell me if dieldrin is still in use.

The biggest problem with that paper, though, is that while it mentions that many populations are resistant to DDT via kdr, they don’t discuss the ramifications of more exposure to DDT and the cross resistance found in pesticides commonly used on bed nets.

Are they that attached to DDT that they would deliberately expose mosquitoes to something that could destroy one of the most effective remaining protections? It’s odd.

9 08 2007
laelaps

Thank you both for the input! I didn’t get a chance to read it/blog about it as my internet service was on again/off again last night, but I was a bit dubious from what I read of the abstract yesterday.

I’m also curious if any health studies have been done on the house spraying/use of DDT in bed nets. From what I’ve heard the research in that area is a bit lacking.

9 08 2007
Bug Girl

DDT generally isn’t used in Bed nets.
However, the main chemicals that are used on ITNs (Insecticide treated bed nets) have similar mechanisms of resistance to DDT, so there is a cross resistance effect.

10 08 2007

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