New approach could stop 6 million African malaria cases

A third of malaria cases in African babies can be prevented by giving them regular doses of antimalarial drugs even before the children are infected, researchers said on Thursday.

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Research into intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in infants (IPTi) found it helped children build better immunity to the disease and reduced the risk of the parasite becoming drug-resistant. Both of these benefits decrease if treatment is given continuously as a prophylaxis, according to the research, published in The Lancet medical journal.

 

Pedro Alonso from the University of Barcelona, who led a study using data from 8,000 children and infants in Tanzania, Mozambique, Gabon and Ghana, said the research showed IPTi with the medicine sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) could save "tens of thousands of lives every year across Africa." If IPTi using SP were expanded to other African countries, 6 million cases of malaria could be prevented each year in those most vulnerable to the disease, he told a London teleconference.

 

"International policy-makers and heads of national malaria control programs should consider its immediate adoption and integration into existing programs," he said. Malaria is one of the world’s most demanding public health problems. It kills around 1 million people a year and of an estimated 247 million cases of malaria in 2006, 86 percent were in Africa.

 

Source: Africa business daily

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