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Top 5 Global Health Headlines: Fungi to Battle Malaria, Lead Poisoning in China

Malaria patient in Cambodia. Photo by Talea Miller.

Fungus Could Fight Malaria

Researchers have genetically modified fungi capable of killing off malaria-causing parasites in mosquitoes, and preventing parasites from developing in the first place. Malaria is transmitted from person to person by mosquitoes, but the parasites are what cause the disease.

Two strains of fungi, Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae, were used in the study, released this week in Science Magazine. The results could hold potential for slowing spread of the deadly disease in an environmentally friendly way, researchers said.

Aid Groups Lobby Against Budget Cuts

The House of Representatives passed a budget bill for the remainder of financial year 2011 over the weekend, prompting swift reaction from aid groups concerned about possible foreign aid cuts. According to the State Department, the bill would cut 41 percent of humanitarian aid.

The heads of 29 international aid groups, including World Vision, Oxfam America, Save the Children and Refugees International sent a letter to Republican leaders in the House Wednesday urging restoration of funding for aid assistance.

“These cuts would imperil the longstanding U.S. commitment to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance for those threatened by disaster and conflict,” the letter said.

China to Cut Heavy Metal Pollution

China is vowing to reduce the problem of heavy metal pollution, including from industries like lead-acid battery manufacturing, as public concern grows over the impact on child health.

A battery factory sickened more than 200 children in January and 23 had to be hospitalized. The incident caused the suspension of an environmental officer in the region.

The government’s move to address the problem also comes on the heels of a report by government scientists finding millions of acres of agricultural land in China contaminated by heavy metals.

New U.N. Agency for Women

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and the United Nations launched a new agency for women Thursday, U.N. Women, that will absorb four existing agencies and refocus work on gender equality and empowerment. The agency will have an annual budget of at least $500 million, twice the resources allotted to the previous group working on these issues.

Bachelet will head the agency and said the group’s goals include ending violence against women and increasing economic opportunities for women.

Farmers Plan for Larger Crops

In response to high food prices and fears of food shortages, farmers around the world are planning for larger crops.

Global wheat acreage is expected to rise 3.1 percent this year, with production climbing 4 percent, according to the International Grains Council, reported the Wall Street Journal. Russia is now planning at least a 15 percent increase in wheat acreage, the council said, and the U.S. is planting the second-largest corn crop since 1944, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But even with an increased output, analysts say high demand and growing prices are a long-term issues, and food prices are still expected to rise 4 percent this year, said the USDA.

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