One child dies from malaria every 30 seconds in Africa, but a new treatment strategy could help healthcare workers tackle the disease in a simpler way, research has revealed.


calendar-icon 18 January 2016

Picture: Malaria No More UK

The World Health Organisation recommends five doses of the drug artesunate every 12 hours for the treatment of malaria.

But researchers conducted a trial on children in five African countries, who had severe malaria, and were given three daily injections with the same drug.

The study found the simpler dosing strategy of three daily injections was just as effective as WHO’s recommended treatment.

Professor Sanjeev Krishna, lead researcher from St George’s University of London, said they want to change treatment practice to help both health staff and patients.

“In remote hospitals in Africa, it is really busy and crowded and if the nurses don’t have to go around twice a day to give the drug to 30 kids that are screaming, then that is a huge saving in terms of nursing time,” he said.

Professor Krishna said they were also advocating for the drug to be given via injection into muscle, rather than intravenously as recommended by WHO.

“Imagine a 10 kg kid, who is severely dehydrated, and a nurse is trying to find a vein – that can take up to 45 minutes to get a line in - and during that time they are not getting the drug,” he said.

“But if a nurse can give the drug with an injection, then they can go bang and inject the drug in accident and emergency as the child is being admitted.”

He added “Our network of researchers into severe malaria called SMAC spans the continent of Africa. Leaders in each country have worked together to study treatments for children who are still suffering. This work highlights the importance of collaboration and cooperation to improve practice.”

The research has been published in PLOS Medicine.