SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.
I'm Steve Ember.
I'm Barbara Klein. This week, we will
tell about a plan to stop the disease malaria in Africa by twenty fifteen. We will also tell about a change of
leadership at America's National Institutes of Health. And we will tell about an insect suspected
of influencing weather conditions in the Rocky Mountains.
Governments, businesses and other groups
have promised to add three billion dollars to the fight against malaria. The promises came last month at a meeting at
the United Nations in New York.
The money will support a new Global
Malaria Action Plan. The plan aims to
stop the disease in Africa by two thousand fifteen. Malaria is not limited to Africa. Yet ninety percent of deaths happen south of the Sahara. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the
plan will not only support bed nets, but research, cutting drug costs and
expanding health care systems
and international groups spent a billion dollars on malaria programs last
year. But the Roll Back Malaria
Partnership says the world should spend more than five times that amount. It says doing so could save four million
lives by twenty-fifteen. The
partnership includes U.N. agencies, the World Bank and leading drug makers.
month, the World Health Organization released its World Malaria Report for two
thousand eight. The report presented
sharply lower estimates of malaria cases than in the past. Officials say the corrections were mostly
the result of better methods of collecting information.
Until now, the W.H.O. has said there
were as many as five hundred million infections every year, with a million
deaths. The new report estimates the
number of malaria cases in two thousand six at about two hundred fifty
million. And, it estimates the number
of deaths at eight hundred eighty-one thousand. The great majority who die are young children.
The W.H.O. says the old numbers came
from using malaria maps from the nineteen sixties. But changes have taken place, including the movement of people to
cities, especially in Asia. The disease
is less common in cities and towns.
report says malaria deaths have decreased in several countries, and a few
African nations have reduced deaths by half.
Yet the malaria drugs needed for what is known as artemisinin-based
combination therapy reached only three percent of African children in need.
the last two years, there have been greatly increased efforts to provide
families with bed nets. These nets are
treated with insecticide products to kill the mosquitoes that spread
malaria. Campaigns for indoor spraying
of insecticides in homes have also increased in Africa and other areas.
director of the National Institutes of Health will resign at the end of this
month. Doctor Elias Zerhouni has led the organization for more than six years.
N.I.H. is the United States government's medical research agency. The research is done at its headquarters in
Maryland, in other states and around the world. About eighteen thousand people work for the agency. It has twenty-seven centers and other
institutes. They include the National
Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Doctor Zerhouni says he plans to write
about his time at the N.I.H. before he accepts another position. During his first two years as director, the
organization had strong financial support.
But after that time, Congress did not increase the budget by very much.
scientists have praised Doctor Zerhouni for creating a plan known as the N.I.H.
of the plan is to speed up creation of medical treatments and devices from
scientific discoveries. This is to be
done by getting researchers from different specialties to cooperate.
addition, Doctor Zerhouni is known for banning N.I.H. researchers from serving
as paid consultants, or advisors, to drug manufacturers and chemical
companies. Doctor Zerhouni announced
the ban in two thousand five. He acted
after lawmakers investigated scientists who also worked for private companies
while still employed at the N.I.H.
These employees received additional payment as consultants or members of
boards of directors.
Zerhouni and his wife moved to the United States from Algeria in nineteen
seventy-five. At the time, they had
very little money and no family or friends in America. But he had completed medical school at the
University of Algiers. He began his
graduate school training as a doctor at John Hopkins University School of
Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
Doctor Zerhouni held increasingly important medical positions at the
School. Before his appointment to the
N.I.H., he was chief of radiology at the university's hospital. Radiology uses X rays and other methods to
find and treat medical problems. Doctor
Zerhouni also established or helped establish medical companies. One of the companies produced a device that
lets magnetic resonance imaging tests be done in places other than hospitals.
President Bush chose Doctor Zerhouni to
lead the N.I.H. eight years ago. The
president made the appointment after limiting federal financing of research on
stem cells from human embryos. Stem
cells can grow into any one of the body's cells. Scientists say such cells have the possibility of treating
diseases like cancer and Parkinson's disease.
Last year, the doctor told the Congress he thought the limits were
interfering with progress in research.
Zerhouni said his resignation would let the new American President choose his
own director of the N.I.H. The
presidential election is two weeks from now.
Finally, scientists are attempting to
learn whether a tree-killing insect can have an effect on weather conditions
and air quality. The mountain pine
beetle is a threat to forests in the western United States. The beetles invade pine trees to mate and
leave their eggs. A tree will produce a
sticky substance in an effort to defend itself against the beetles.
cases, however, the insects are able to enter the tree. The beetle larvae then feed off the tree as
they develop under the tree's bark or protective cover. The larvae rob the tree of its nutrients as
they feed. It takes one year for the
larvae to develop and become adult beetles.
In that time, the tree is so weakened, that it dies.
mountain pine beetle has killed large numbers of pine trees. But that might not be the only effect of the
insect. American scientists are leading
an international project to study how the large tree kills affect weather
scientists work at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder,
Colorado. The project is called
BEACHON. That is short for
Bio-hydro-atmosphere Interactions of Energy, Aerosols, Carbon, H-two-O,
Organics and Nitrogen.
studies have suggested that beetles killing trees can result in temporary
increases in temperature. The
scientists say this is partly because the lost trees do not throw the sun's
heat back into space.
also believe that beetle attacks cause trees to release more particles and
chemicals in the atmosphere as they fight the insects. This makes air quality worse and at least
temporarily increases levels of ground-level ozone. This affects both nearby air quality and temperatures.
BEACHON project is expected to last four years. It will cover an area extending from southern Wyoming to northern
say they will use aircraft, instruments on the ground and above the trees to
study relationships between Earth and its atmosphere. Scientists will be able to gather information about cloud
formation, climate change and movement of gases and particles between the
ground and the atmosphere. Plants
release gases like water vapor and tiny particles that influence the
atmosphere. The scientists say the
exchange of gases and particles between the ground and the atmosphere is
especially important in dry areas such as the western United States.
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written by Brianna Blake, Jerilyn Watson and
Caty Weaver. Brianna Blake was also our
producer. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Barbara Klein.
Read and listen to our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again at this time next week for more news about
science in Special English on the Voice of America.