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U.N. Secretary-General Calls For Scale Up Of Global Malaria Efforts Ahead Of World Malaria Day

Global malaria control efforts must be significantly scaled up if the world is to reach the goal of reducing malaria deaths to almost zero by 2015, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message on Thursday ahead of World Malaria Day, which is officially observed on Monday, the U.N. News Centre writes.

Reaching this goal will require “an extraordinary intensification” of efforts in two areas, according to Ban. “First, scaling up the life-saving and cost-effective interventions that have already produced such dramatic results,” Ban said in the statement, adding that there should be “universal coverage for all people at risk.”

“Second, providing timely testing for all persons suspected of having malaria, and effective treatment for those confirmed to have the disease,” he said. Ban also highlighted future challenges. “Parasite resistance to our best antimalarial medicines is a major threat. We must respond by implementing our global plan to overcome such resistance,” he noted in the statement.

He recognized that “there is much to celebrate” about global malaria control efforts over the last few years, but called on donors to put more funding into research and existing programs (4/21).

WHO Now Recommends Artesunate Over Quinine For Treatment Of Severe Malaria In Children

The WHO has changed its malaria treatment recommendation for children, Peter Olumese of the WHO Global Malaria Program said on Thursday, Agence France-Presse reports.

“Intravenous artesunate should be used in preference to quinine for the treatment of severe P. falciparum malaria in children,” according to the WHO. WHO has recommended the use of artemisinin for adults since 2006. The recommendation for children was different until now because there was “no evidence to recommend that artesunate should be used instead of quinine,” according to Olumese. “Now we have that evidence … That’s why we make this recommendation,” he said (4/21).

“Quinine has been the drug of choice for treating severe malaria for years, but it is difficult to administer and can have dangerous side effects,” IRIN notes.

“It requires a lot of calculation,” according to Veronique De Clerk, medical coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the northern Ugandan district of Kaabong. “You need to dilute it into infusions, and those infusions need to run through an IV [intravenous line] for four hours [every eight hours], and you need to monitor that, so it requires well-qualified personnel,” she added. Earlier this week, MSF released a report calling for African governments and the WHO to recommend using artesunate rather than quinine (4/21).  

U.S., African Military Officials Participate In Malaria Symposium

Stars and Stripes reports on AFRICOM’s first “Malaria Symposium,” which brought together U.S. military and medical officials and “their counterparts from several nations” in Stuttgart, Germany, this week.  The meeting “focused on the challenges of operating in territory where malaria is an everyday threat. The three-day conference … brought together military medical specialists from Tanzania, Benin, Senegal, Uganda and Kenya, as well as several U.S. military and health agencies,” according to the newspaper.

“For AFRICOM, the focus on malaria cuts two ways. While the command first must ensure that the troops it sends to the continent are educated on preventing infection, AFRICOM also is looking at ways it can provide assistance to its partners who routinely face malaria infection,” Stars and Stripes writes. “In 2010, 24 U.S. troops contracted the disease in Africa – the second highest number since 2002 and a direct result of increased exposure, according to U.S. military medical officials. Unlike their African counterparts, U.S. troops have little or no immunity to malaria” (Vandiver, 4/21).

Scientists Call For Protection Of Plants That Can Be Used To Treat Malaria

African scientists are calling for more research “to prevent the extinction of trees and shrubs with antimalarial properties that could guide the discovery of new generation of antimalarials and other life-saving drugs,” SciDev.Net reports (Ogodo, 4/21). “A new book by researchers at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) … provides a detailed assessment of 22 of the region’s malaria-fighting trees and shrubs. While over a thousand plant species have been identified by traditional healers as effective in the prevention or treatment of malaria symptoms, the species in the book were assigned by both traditional medicinal practitioners and scientists as those that have potential for further study,” states a press release from ICRAF and KEMRI.

“According to researchers, many species of trees in East Africa are at high risk of extinction due to deforestation and over-exploitation for medicinal uses. Scientists in the field have been able to identify at-risk tree species, including those that have antimalarial qualities, by monitoring deforestation in the region and by talking to herbalists and local communities. According to researchers, not all species of antimalarial trees are at risk, particularly those that grow wild in lowland and coastal areas,” according to the release (4/20).

In other malaria coverage, the Financial Times published a series of reports about the disease. Articles examine diagnostic tools, vaccine development and other approaches to malaria control. The series also contains some opinion pieces about efforts to fight malaria (4/21).

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