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AFRO-NETS> Malaria research offers new promise

Malaria research offers new promise

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday welcomed the results of 
a just-published study on malaria, which, it said, could offer new 
hope in reducing the toll of the illness among infants. The study of 
701 children in Ifakara, southern Tanzania, published in 'The Lancet' 
medical journal "opens up an exciting new possibility of reducing the 
impact of malaria in young children", WHO stated. The research - sup-
ported by WHO, the UNDP and the World Bank - monitored infants who 
received an anti-malarial drug together with the second and third 
doses of diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus (DPT) 
vaccine, and with the measles vaccine. The intervention, which ap-
peared to be safe in this trial, was found to cut the prevalence of 
severe malaria by 59 percent and associated anaemia by 50 percent, 
with a treatment that would cost just US 25 cents. "The results of 
this study open up an important way to reduce the toll of death from 
anaemia and malaria in infants," WHO stated. The challenge now was to 
validate the research findings in other malaria-affected areas and 
confirm the safety of the treatment, it said.

WHO estimates that there are 300 to 500 million cases of malaria 
worldwide every year. The malaria research it welcomed on Monday was 
based in Ifakara, a semi-rural area with a population of about 55,000 
situated in the flood plains of the Kilombero river, southern Tanza-
nia. In areas of high malaria transmission, such as the Kilombero 
Valley in southern Tanzania, about half of all malaria hospital ad-
missions and deaths are in children younger than one year, according 
to the research findings in 'The Lancet'. The well-established Ex-
panded Program on Immunisation (EPI) routinely delivered vaccinations 
to infants and, if there were no adverse interactions, could be used 
to deliver anti-malarial interventions to the target group in certain 
settings, it said. Efficient malaria control depended on targeting 
the groups at highest risk of disease and death, and a preventive 
rather than curative approach was appealing and would reduce the im-
pact of people's poor access to curative services, the report added. 

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