One-third of African babies could avoid becoming ill with malaria with a new treatment method against the disease, according to the authors of a study published 17 September in the Lancet. By giving young uninfected children doses of the traditional anti-malarial drugs on a regular, but not continuous basis, the children build up their immunity to the disease, and its resistance to the drugs decreases, the study finds.
Malaria causes almost one million deaths a year world-wide, according to Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, mostly among children under the age of five. Based on findings involving almost 8,000 children in four countries in Africa, the research finds that if extended to all of Africa, some six million cases of malaria could be prevented.
Between 350m and 500m people are infected every year, mostly in the world’s poorest countries. The situation is aggravated by deteriorating health systems, war and climate change. Traditional drugs have been used for almost 30 years and the disease is becoming increasingly resistant to them, reducing their effectiveness.