'Flower' Restores Hope to Malaria's Smallest Victims

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SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Summer means more mosquitoes. The pests are an annoyance in the United States, but they can be deadly in other parts of the world.   

A mosquito sting can lead to diseases like malaria. According to figures from the World Health Organization, malaria kills nearly a million people every year.

Malaria nearly killed Emmanuel Clottey, a minister who once worked as missionary in Kenya. 

Clottey contracted the illness as a child growing up in Ghana. He is now a student in America, finishing up his doctorate degree in public health.
 
"Trust me, malaria is bad [and] it is no fun," Clottey told CBN News. 

"Even as I talk about it now and recall my illness with malaria," he said. "I can still feel the heat on my body as if I am having it right now. I feel that heat."

Saving Kids Malaria's Grip

Statistics show a child dies from the disease every 30 seconds.  The startling numbers have fueled the work of Dr. Thomas Kollars, a classically trained musician and epidemiologist. 

Kollars once witnessed a 5-year-old child die in Thailand from dengue fever, another vector-borne disease. He recounted the details in a recent interview at his lab in Georgia. 

"Mom was holding his hand. The boy was in coma from dengue fever. His little sister was crying," Kollars recalled.

"I don't care how many times I tell the story, when you see a kid dying, it does something to you," he said.

That moment in Thailand inspired Kollars to create MEVLABS, where he has spent more than a dozen years testing ways to reduce the mosquito population, which would ultimately mean fewer cases of malaria.

Persistence led Kollars to a bio pesticide called Bacillus Thuringiensis Israelensis (BTI).  An Israeli scientist first discovered it in the 1940s to kill larvae before they hatched. 

Kollars then discovered how to get BTI to kill actual mosquitoes.

"That bacteria in that mosquito was a gift from God to man to control mosquitoes," Kollars told CBN News.

'The ProVector'

Kollars soon joined forces with William "Rocky" Parker, CEO of MIT Holdings, Inc., a Savannah-based company.

The company is now helping to package Kollars' discovery into a bright plastic flower that attracts mosquitoes to the bait that kills them.  The completed product is called "The ProVector." 

"We do the marketing and manufacturing, and Dr. Kollars does the science," Parker said. 

"We want to take this thing worldwide. We want to go global," he said. "We want to be able to help every single person out there.  We don't need a single person to be dying from malaria."

More than 70 percent of residents of the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, have been affected by malaria. Clottey and Kollars traveled the region to set up a Community ProVector Project and to teach mothers how to use them.

Kibera is now one of about 100 ProVector Projects in more than 30 countries.

A Dream Come True

"We are now getting ready to take this product into Nigeria," said Walt Bird, who recently joined MIT Holdings as its missions director. 

"I believe that my job is to bring awareness to the churches around the world, to denominations to give them an opportunity to know that here is a product that literally can save lives around the world," he added.

This is all a dream come true for Dr. Kollars, who has worked tirelessly for more than dozen years on the project.
 
"I'm so blessed," he told CBN News. "God let me know what I am supposed to be doing." 

"He said to me, 'Because of what you have done, because of your invention, tens of thousands of children will hear about the Gospel," he added. "Will hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.'"

--Published June 6, 2011.

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Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.