Resurrected malaria strategy saves thousands of lives in Africa
In a sea of high-tech malaria fixes — everything from drug-delivery by drone to gene-edited mosquitoes — an old-fashioned approach is saving thousands of children in West Africa, according to studies presented this week at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.
The measure, called seasonal malaria chemoprevention, involves giving children a dose of antimalarial drugs once each month in the rainy season to prevent the disease in hard-hit regions. Researchers have previously demonstrated this strategy in large clinical trials but they had feared that their positive results wouldn’t be replicated in the messy, real world, because chemoprevention requires thousands of local health workers to deliver drugs to children in villages far from hospitals, pharmacies and paved roads.
“People were doubtful this intervention would work, because it’s so demanding,” says Brian Greenwood, an infectious disease specialist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who helped to conduct trials that showed reductions in malaria prevalence up to 84%1. As a result of those studies, more than 6.4 million children in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal) received the drugs in 2016.