Providing Malaria Drugs at Home Ineffective at Treating Disease in African Children, Study Says
Providing malaria treatment at home is ineffective at treating the disease in African children who live in urban areas, according to a study published online Tuesday in the journal Lancet and funded by the Gates Malaria Partnership, the AP/Forbes reports. Earlier studies found that home-based malaria treatment is effective in rural areas; however, malaria must be addressed differently in cities, the AP/Forbes reports.
For the study, researchers followed more than 400 children ages one to six in Kampala, Uganda, from 2005 to 2007. The researchers distributed malaria drugs to households and told parents to give the medicine to their children if they developed a fever. About one-half of the children received the medication at home, while the other half visited clinics within one day of becoming feverish. The study found that the children who were treated at home received twice as many medications as the children who were taken to the clinics but did not fare any better. Some physicians said the study indicated a tendency to treat fevers among children with malaria medication before the illnesses were diagnosed as malaria.
According to the AP/Forbes, the study highlights gaps in malaria treatment throughout Africa. "If you just go on fever, you're over-treating so many children and you could miss other diseases by using malaria drugs," Tido von-Schoen Angerer of Medecins Sans Frontieres said. Von-Schoen Angerer, who was not involved in the study, added that the study demonstrates that standard malaria care is inadequate.
The United Nations, World Health Organization and Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria later this week are expected to announce $200 million in funding for the Affordable Medicines for Malaria to make artemisinin-based combination therapies more affordable in 11 African countries. Von-Schoen Angerer and some other experts have expressed concern about the initiative, saying that wider availability of ACTs could lead to increased drug resistance. "The risk of resistance is very scary," von-Schoen Angerer said, adding, "We don't have a back-up medicine at this stage." Richard Tren, director of Africa Fighting Malaria, added that the evidence the initiative "could work is pretty shaky" (Cheng, AP/Forbes, 4/13).
The study is available online.