September 14, 2006

WHO May OK More DDT Use to Fight Malaria

WASHINGTON - The World Health Organization is poised to promote broader use of the pesticide DDT in the battle against malaria.

Long banned in the United States because of environmental damage, DDT is used legally in a few impoverished countries to kill malaria-bearing mosquitoes. It no longer is sprayed outdoors, but indoors "” to coat the inside walls of mud huts or other dwellings where mosquitoes lurk. The aim is to protect sleeping families from bites at night.

There has been little progress in recent years in preventing malaria, which sickens up to half a billion people annually and kills more than 1 million, mostly young children and mostly in Africa.

Now the WHO is strengthening its malaria-fighting campaign to more strongly push for indoor spraying with a number of insecticides "” including DDT "” as a safe, effective and cheap option for countries to choose, say officials familiar with the announcement, to be made Friday in Washington.

"It's a big change," said biologist Amir Attaran of Canada's University of Ottawa, who long has pushed for the guidelines and described a recent draft. "There has been a lot of resistance to using insecticides to control malaria, and one insecticide especially. As of tomorrow, that will have to be reevaluated by a lot of people."

The WHO will say that "indoor residual spraying, including with DDT, has been underutilized, which has hampered international efforts to effectively combat malaria in Africa," said a Bush administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity in advance of the public announcement.

The U.S. government already has decided to pay for DDT and other indoor insecticide use as part of        President Bush's $1.2 billion, five-year initiative to control malaria in Africa.