DDT is saving lives in South Africa, and in two dozen other tropical countries ravaged by mosquito-borne malaria.
The pesticide, banned by most of the world as an environmental menace, is the most effective, economical weapon against the deadly disease that kills over 1 million people each year.
In South Africa, Sun correspondent John Murphy reports, authorities are again using DDT to fight a virulent resurgence of malaria.
Blue-uniformed health patrols are systematically spraying homes and buildings in affected areas to kill the infected mosquitoes that carry the disease.
Expensive alternative insecticides did not work; malaria cases and deaths soared until DDT spraying resumed. Careful, targeted use of the poison is combined with education, treatment and emphasis on mesh sleeping net protection.
South Africa is not unmindful of the environmental dangers of DDT, which was widely overused and misused in the past. Because it does not break down in nature, DDT leaves a legacy that can harm wildlife and humans. A global treaty banning DDT was signed by 93 nations this year.
The reality is that DDT will continue to be used until practical alternatives exist for poor countries most afflicted by malaria. Some 500 million people are infected with malaria annually, more than 90 percent of them in Africa.
The ultimate goal is a vaccine to prevent malaria, but drug companies see few profits in such a product. Johns Hopkins University is using a $100 million gift to pursue this public health objective. Other scientists report advances in engineering animal genes to produce milk that could contain a malaria vaccine.
Mosquito eradication remains the primary control strategy. DDT will be the hard choice for tropical countries that have seen the enormous toll of death and suffering from malaria. For them, the risks are all too apparent.