Resistance to Malaria Drug Critical

Jenny Decker RN's picture
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Malaria seems like a world away. Some might even wonder if it still exists. We rarely see it in our comfortable homes and neighborhoods in America. Take a moment to close your eyes and think about Africa. What do you see in your mind’s eye? Perhaps you see lions, giraffes, and elephants wandering around. Now think about the people in Africa. What does the malaria drug do for the people in Africa? Is there a vaccine against malaria?

According to the World Health Organization, about 3.3 billion people are at risk of getting malaria. That is half the population of the world. This leads to about 250 billion cases, with about one million deaths. The most vulnerable are those living in the poorest countries of the world. An African child on average has between 1.6 and 5.4 episodes of fever from malaria each year. It is estimated by WHO that 1 in 5 children who die in Africa, dies from malaria. This represents 20% of childhood deaths. What is worse is that every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria.

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It is sad to note that malaria can be treated. Through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, $7 billion has been allocated since the year 2000. There is an urgency to develop a malaria vaccine because there is an increased resistance to the malaria drug. In addition to that, there are no other drugs up and coming to take its place.

WHO has launched a campaign to identify and rapidly treat any malaria cases with the current malaria drug, artemisinin. Artemisinin is an old Chinese herb that has been used to treat malaria, but the dangerous Plasmodium falciparum is quickly evolving to resistance. Insecticide-treated nets are put up to manage mosquito transmission of the disease for prevention. Hopefully, a malaria vaccine will be available in the next 5 years, as this is the next critical period in the fight against malaria.

Sources: www.who.int and www.nejm.org

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