BY CHIOMA OBINNA
Nigerian medical experts have been urged to demystify the diagnosis and treatment of malaria as part of strategies to reduce the burden of the disease in the country.
The experts who stressed the need to recognise the burden of the disease as a public health importance pointed out that cooperating with the patients and allowing them to know how to self- manage uncomplicated malaria would not put them out of business.
The experts, a research fellow, University of Ilorin and Dr. Olugbenga Mokuolu, and Dr. Razaq Olaosebikan from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine spoke at the Maiden edition of the Zolon Health Round Table (HEART) organised by Zolon Healthcare Ltd. to celebrate this year’s World Malaria Day in Lagos.
Mokuolu who is also among the trailists in the Aquamat study, the largest clinical trail which led to the reversal of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) treatment guidelines in his paper titled “Current Concepts in Management of Malaria: Reversing Mortality” said severe malaria is a terrible burden on the African continent and across the developing world and we need the best treatments available to combat it.
In Nigeria, he noted, at least 50 per cent of the 140 million will have one clinical episode every year, over 300,000 deaths occur annually.
Stating that there is no magic bullet for controlling malaria, he said in reversing mortality, there is need to prevent new diseases, ensure accurate diagnosis, prompt effective treatment for uncomplicated and severe malaria.
Noting that monotherapy treatment for malaria is no longer accepted because of the problem of resistance in the therapeutic efficacy assessments and the cure rate, he said treatment for malaria must be in combination with Lumefantrine and Artemether.
Discouraging diagnosis based on symptoms, he explained that treatment solely on the basis of clinical suspicious should only be considered when a parastitological diagnosis is not accessible.
Commenting on the AQUAMAT study, Mokuola said the study which compared the ‘African quinine versus artesunate malaria trial showed a 22.5 per cent reduction in mortality among patients treated with artesunate compared to those given the standard treatment of quinine.
“In line with these findings, WHO has now changed its treatment guidelines to recommend parenteral artesunate as first-line treatment in the management of severe malaria in African children. Changing the first-line treatment from quinine to artesunate has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of children’s lives across Africa each year.”
“If half of the estimated eight million children who suffer from the disease annually could be treated with injectable artesunate, we could potentially save 100 000 young lives each year. For those of us who treat malaria in Africa, this trial is a turning point.
Spokesperson for Zolon Healthcare Limited, Mr. Albert Udoh stressed the need for Nigerian experts to oblige Nigerians with necessary health information adding that malaria though seen as common illness could cause more harm than HIV.