In April, MedShr attended the Malaria Summit in London in support of the global fight to eradicate the deadly disease for good.
The event was co-hosted by the Governments of Swaziland and Rwanda and convened by the RBM Partnership to End Malaria and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In attendance were 12 Heads of State, and 2 Deputy Heads of State, HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH The Duke of York, as well as great malaria champions including Bill Gates’ tour de force keynote speech and Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s transporting accounts of malaria in her childhood.
£2.9bn ($4.1bn) was promised to Governments, the private sector, philanthropists and integral organisations. In fact, on Friday 19th April, the 53 leaders of Commonwealth nations committed to halve the burden of malaria across the Commonwealth within five years. While this is fantastic progress, there is still more work to be done around developing new tools and strategies and continuing to gather the funding needed to end malaria. Doctors and healthcare professional can help by sharing their knowledge on the treatment and management of malaria with other doctors around the world.
The fight against malaria
Since 2000, malaria deaths have been cut by over 60%, saving almost seven million lives, yet in 2016 there were an estimated 216 million cases of malaria worldwide and of those infected 445,000 died. That’s 1,219 lives lost every day or nearly one a minute.
Malaria is a complex disease and there are three targets for prevention: the malaria parasite, the mosquito that carries it and the human behaviours and living conditions that can feed it and cause it to spread.
Research is approaching the issue of transmission from a number of directions including genetic modification. Only the female mosquito transmits malaria and a gene editing technique can be used to interfere with the Anopheles gambiae mosquito, one of the major transmitters of malaria, so that it only carries male eggs. This intervention is called gene drive and should have a major impact on transmission from mosquitos to humans.
Vaccines have always been a key weapon. From this September children in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi will get the first doses of the RTS,S vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline. While the launch of the vaccine is a landmark in the war against malaria, in trials it only reduced the number of deaths by 40 per cent. It also has to be given in four doses, with the fourth dose administered 18 months after the third.
At present the main treatment for malaria is artemisinin based combination therapy (ACT). In south-east Asia malaria parasites have now developed drug resistance which has spread from south-east Asia to Africa. In March, four new ACTs were shown to be just as effective as current treatments. One of the drugs also provided long-term protection, preventing people from becoming re-infected.
There is still a long way to go. Until now insecticide-treated bed nets have been the mainstay of prevention. In endemic areas it is important to inform the public and educate healthcare professionals in early diagnosis and effective treatment.
“Malaria remains a major cause of infant mortality in endemic areas, and so whilst we try to find an effective vaccine to prevent the condition, it is essential that cases are identified and treated promptly. MedShr is working to support doctors and healthcare professionals around the world to improve care for these patients,” says Dr Asif Qasim, Founder of MedShr.
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