School-Age Children Most Vulnerable To Malaria Infection In Africa, Study Says

Children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 19 in malaria-endemic African countries are “the most vulnerable group to malaria following the successful distribution of the free bednets to protect children under five and pregnant women against the killer fever,” according to a study published in the journal BMC Public Health, the East African reports. The study, which looked at data taken from 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa countries between 2005 and 2009, found that although people in this age group were exposed to malaria, they were less likely than other groups – including children younger than 5 and pregnant women – to have access to insecticide-treated nets (ITNs). Approximately 80 percent of human-to-mosquito malaria transmission comes from people older than age 5, the East African writes. 

Lead researcher Abdisalan Noor, of the Kenyan Medical Research Institute (Kemri)-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, pointed out that people between the ages of 5 and 19 “represent a large fraction of the population in most developing African communities.” He added that although people in this age group have “developed immunity against clinical disease, they will not have developed immunity to the malaria parasite and will therefore continue to contribute transmission in the community.” He said the findings are significant because they identify a large demographic segment that has been excluded from current malaria control efforts (Kimani, 10/19).

The authors conclude that “school-age children are the least protected with ITNs. School-delivery of ITNs, therefore, should be considered as an approach to reach universal coverage and improve the likelihood of impacting upon malaria parasite transmission.” In BMC Public Health, they write, “As most sub-Saharan African countries move towards universal coverage of ITNs it becomes important that national survey data can be used to redefine optimal approaches to this new strategy. Therefore data on ITN use must be collected for all household members and not … for those only under the age of five years and pregnant women” (Noor et al., 10/1). 

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