Public health crises don’t operate on the same timetable as academic journals.
When my colleague Stephanie Nolen began working on an article earlier this year about new technologies to fight mosquito-borne diseases, she assumed she would be writing a story of continued progress.
For much of the past two decades, those diseases have been receding, thanks to mosquito nets, insecticides and billions of dollars of funding from governments and philanthropies. Between 2000 and 2019, for example, global malaria deaths fell more than a third.
“But it only took a couple of calls to realize that there was way more going on in the world of mosquitoes than I had realized,” Stephanie told me this week. “I was a bit taken aback, as a global health reporter who has been writing about malaria for 25 years, to realize that the common public narrative of a straightforward trajectory of progress against the disease is inaccurate.”
Over the past year, she has traveled to six countries, studied data, waded through swamps in Kenya, crawled into goat sheds in Ethiopia and learned how to suck a mosquito into a glass vial — as researchers do so they can study it alive. The result is a series of alarming stories that The Times published this morning.
The mosquito already kills more people every year than any other creature does, and the toll is rising. Malaria deaths rose about 8 percent between 2019 and 2021, the first increases in decades.
Two big causes
The toll is rising for two main reasons. First, mosquitoes have evolved to elude strategies that were once working against them. The increasing use of bed nets has led to a decline in the population of mosquitoes that tend to live indoors — but mosquitoes that thrive outdoors have increased in number, and bed nets can’t fight them so easily. Mosquitoes have also evolved to become more resistant to current insecticides.
Second, climate change has expanded the areas where the weather is warm enough for the most dangerous species of mosquitoes — those that carry deadly diseases — to thrive. Dengue, which used to be a purely tropical disease, has moved into Florida and France. This past summer, a small number of malaria cases spread in Texas, Florida and Maryland, the first local transmissions of the disease in the U.S. in 20 years.
“It seems as though the mosquitoes are winning,” Eric Ochomo, a mosquito-fighting scientist in Kenya, told Stephanie.
One problem, many experts believe, is that the World Health Organization and other regulators are slow to approve new insecticides and other preventive measures. These agencies typically wait for years of evidence to accumulate before approving new mitigation strategies, but people are dying in the meantime. The situation reminds me of the C.D.C.’s struggles to provide timely, clear help during the Covid pandemic, be it with masks, tests or behavioral guidance. Public health crises don’t operate on the same timetable as academic journals.
You can read Stephanie’s overview here — as well as a second story about a new malaria-carrying mosquito that’s threatening some of Africa’s largest cities.
THE LATEST NEWS
Biden’s Democracy Speech
President Biden accused Donald Trump and other “MAGA extremists” of threatening the Constitution. The speech, in Arizona, was his most blistering recent attack on Trump, Peter Baker writes.
“Democracies don’t have to die at the end of a rifle,” Biden said. “They can die when people are silent, when they fail to stand up or condemn threats to democracy.”
Biden also criticized Republicans for not rebuking Trump’s recent suggestion that an Army general who clashed with him deserved the death penalty.
Biden announced federal funding for a library honoring John McCain, the late senator. He told the story of introducing McCain to his future wife Cindy, who was there.
Trump’s civil fraud trial may begin as soon as Monday, after a New York appeals court rejected his bid for a delay.
He could lose control of Trump Tower and other properties. See which ones are at risk.
In Trump’s Georgia racketeering case, over election interference, his lawyer wrote that he would not seek a transfer to federal court.
Trump’s team has paid the legal bills for people caught up in his prosecutions. The money is running low.
As a deadline looms, Speaker Kevin McCarthy is trying to turn a fight over federal spending into a battle over Biden’s handling of the border.
Biden’s strategy: Avoid a shutdown, if possible. If not, make sure Americans know where to place the blame.
Senator John Fetterman, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said he was open to expelling Robert Menendez from the Senate if he refused to resign over corruption charges.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly narrowed the legal definition of corruption. That may help Menendez.
More on Politics
At House Republicans’ first impeachment hearing against Biden, their own witnesses said there was not enough evidence to support impeachment.
Ron DeSantis projected confidence at the Republican debate this week, but it may not convince voters he’s the best alternative to Trump.
The tech giant Huawei offered gifts to Greek officials as it sought European allies during a trade war with the U.S., a Times investigation found.
Evergrande, a property company, suspended its stock and said its billionaire chairman was under investigation.
A group of former applicants sued the Peace Corps, accusing it of discriminating against them because of their mental health histories.
Resident advisers at the University of Pennsylvania voted to unionize, part of swell of labor organizing among undergraduates.
A judge said New York City regulators could raise minimum wages for workers who deliver food for platforms like Uber. The new minimum will start at about $18 an hour.
New York City now has the biggest income gap of any large county in the country.
Other Big Stories
Michael Gambon, whose long acting career reached a late peak with the role of Dumbledore in the “Harry Potter” films, died at 82.
An explosion at a religious gathering in Pakistan killed at least 52 people and injured dozens more. Officials believe it was a suicide attack.
Many U.S. nursing homes are still awaiting the latest Covid vaccine.
Florida created building codes to protect the tourism industry from hurricanes. Instead, it’s pricing tourists out, Sarah Stodola writes.
Randy C. Hatton and Leslie Hendeles spent decades urging the F.D.A. to say cold medicines don’t work. Regulators need to review other drugstore staples, they write.
Here are columns by Charles Blow on Trump’s populism and Paul Krugman on the Trump fraud case.
New York City: In parking lots and empty schools, newly arrived migrants are creating communities.
Travel delays: There’s a monthslong wait for short-term visas to Europe.
Covid fatigue: Doctors still don’t understand it. But they do now have reliable ways to manage it.
Modern Love: It was the greatest love she’d ever known. Too bad it wasn’t real.
Lives Lived: For more than seven decades, M.S. Swaminathan built a formidable career in crop science and food production. His research and faming methods helped ward off starvation for hundreds of millions of people. He died at 98.
Thursday Night Football: The Detroit Lions used a dominant first half to shut down the Green Bay Packers, winning 34-20.
Baseball: The Baltimore Orioles clinched the 2023 American League East title with a 2-0 win over the Boston Red Sox.
Golf: As the Ryder Cup begins, look at its history of weird fashion.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Force of nature: Anything Beyoncé does is a cultural event, but her Renaissance World Tour has become a cultural movement. People are crossing the globe to see her, dressed en masse in silver and rhinestones. By the tour’s close, Beyoncé will have generated an estimated $4.5 billion for the American economy — about as much as the 2008 Olympics did for Beijing.
More on culture
In an era of quiet luxury, maximalism has been on the runway at Paris Fashion Week.
These photos and maps show how art galleries remade New York City’s SoHo.
THE MORNING RECOMMENDS …
Add cumin and cashews to this yogurt rice.
Adjust your skin care routine for the fall.
Read this essay about quitting smoking in GQ.
Buy the best TV.
Wear an insulated vest.
Take our news quiz.
Here is today’s Spelling Bee. Yesterday’s pangram was whupping.
And here are today’s Mini Crossword, Wordle, Sudoku and Connections.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David
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