Chinese University research heralds affordable treatment for malaria in Africa
By Alpha Daffae Senkpeni
Guangzhou – A researcher at the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine says the fast elimination of malaria by source eradication (FEMSE) is cheap and has achieved effective results since its introduction to Africa.
Dr. Deng Changsheng, Manager of Science and Technical Zone at the university, says it will cost US$15 to treat a person with malaria within eight years by using FEMSE through mass drug administration (MDA) with Artemisinin-based combination therapies or ACT.
Dr. Deng said the introduction of FEMSE in the Union of Comoros Island in 2006 achieved great success. From being a high malaria epidemic area with morbidity rate of 6%, Comoros saw low malaria cases reported without death and at the same time saved about US$11 million of its health budget.
The Chinese researcher says it is important for the world to focus on different measures to enhance malaria control in countries seriously affected especially those in Africa.
Although he didn’t give detail but the outcome, the doctor said the university has been engaging the World Health Organisation to expand MDA across many African countries.
“So we can collaborate with other agencies like Global Fund to ensure this drug reaches many African countries,” Dr. Deng said.
“WHO invited us to a special meeting to talk about how to use MDA; how to use MDA in the other African countries in (with) high epidemic area.”
“Our university does some important work and has done some successful projects to prove MDA is medical, typical and also successful and can be used in other countries,” he said, adding that the university is ready to partner with African universities to expand the research.
Global Fund, one of the world’s leading non-governmental agencies tackling the disease, says it provided 626 million treatments for malaria up to the middle of 2016 and the NGO continues to emphasize the efficacy of ACT.
“In the last decade, we have seen the introduction of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), a new generation of antimalarial treatment that are highly effective,” Global Fund stated on its website.
In some countries, Dr. Deng said NGOs or government spends an average of US$40 on ACT to treat one person for three years, but the research by the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine shows that US$15 was spent to treat one person using the ACT in Comoros.
Researchers at the university say the anti malaria treatment protects humans against malaria by killing the parasite in one month.
ACT doesn’t make people immune to malaria but it kills the parasite and makes the person malaria free for a month, they said.
The research result shows that the drug is used during MDA to treat a population in a specific area where the mosquitoes’ parasite risk is high.
It is a fourth generation of ACTs that has significant patent protection in 38 countries with recorded success in 18 malaria epidemic countries, Dr. Deng said.
MDA or mass drug administration is a process which appears similar to a vaccination campaign that involves the treatment of a targeted population at the same time. It has been used for over 70 years to eradicate malaria in many countries including China.
China has made enormous efforts in eliminating malaria at a huge scale with each case treated as a mandatory notifiable infectious disease and must be reported to the National Infectious Disease Reporting Information System.
There’s long-term implementation of anti-malaria campaigns in areas with high transmission of malaria in the country, including strengthening surveillance systems, improving access to treatment, preventive anti-malarial administration for high-risk groups, environmental improvement, vector control, and social mobilization.
These steps have impacted the major decline of malaria in endemic areas in mainland China.
In 2016, there were 2,000 cases reported in the country with most patients being migrants from Africa.
Currently, there’s no accurate immunisation for malaria and Dr Deng said there’s only 15% chance of a vaccine preventing the disease.
Meanwhile, the WHO and Global Fund are spending millions to find a vaccine for a disease that puts over 3.4 million people at risk – about 80% of this number is in Africa.
International organizations working to combat malaria are also concern about human resistance to ACT.
“Unfortunately, however, we are already seeing resistance to the key ingredient, artemisinin, (as well as the partner drugs) develop in certain parts of the world.
This is one of the great challenges facing us in the fight against malaria,” says a statement on the organization’s website.
But the Chinese medical researcher admitted that there are concerns about human resistance to ACT.
However, he said the study in Comoros has not shown any, and they are coordinating with the United States National Institute of Health (NIH) to determine more. – www.frontpageafricaonline.com