By Mary Mwendwa
As the world celebrates World Malaria Day on April 25, 2017,with the theme (A push for Prevention) Dr. Bernhard Ogutu, Chief Research officer, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Senior Clinical Trialist with Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance of the INDEPTH – Network, and Director, Centre for Research in the Therapeutic Science ( CREATES ) at Strathmore University, speaks to Talk Africa on the progress Kenya has made in the fight against Malaria….
Talk Africa: Where are we in the war on Malaria?
Dr.Ogutu: There is a general trend in reduction of malaria prevalence across the board in the country. There are areas that used to have a high burden of malaria like the Coast but the levels have gone pretty down. However, Western region is leading in malaria transmission cases but in low levels compared to the past.
Talk Africa: Which are the current effective drugs that treat Malaria?
Dr. Ogutu: Recommended drugs for treating malaria are basically Artemisinin-Based Combination (ACTs), which are still effective in our setting and there is none that is failing. However, we are monitoring them in the case they start failing we will get to know and possibly see what changes we need to make in terms of recommendations on what should be the first line.
Talk Africa: After diagnosing malaria; How are the ACTs supposed to be used?
Dr.Ogutu: The drugs for malaria and ACTS have to be taken as a full dose which has to be taken for three days. Some patients will feel better after the first day, this does not mean they are healed, but still have to complete the dose to clear the parasites in the body, else patients will fall sick again. The three-day treatment is designed that there is enough drug in your blood for seven days to clear all the parasites in the blood.
Talk Africa: Who are the vulnerable groups?
Dr. Ogutu: Children living in malaria endemic areas where there is transmission are the first casualty, followed by women who are pregnant and finally and for anybody who has never lived in a malaria-endemic area no matter their age.
Talk Africa: Which drugs are currently effective in treating Malaria?
Dr . Ogutu: ACTS are used for malaria treatment, they are fit and safe for pregnant women and children too. For children, there has been a drive to only have pediatric drugs to treat malaria. For malaria treatment, nobody should use syrup. ACTS are very unstable in solutions and therefore anybody peddling syrups for malaria especially the ACTS is a criminal. Similarly, injections can be used for those who are severely ill and cannot take tablets.
Athusinate drug is used in this case and is associated with a better outcome than quinine, with quinine you have to use a drip therefore not cost effective and some patients have reported side effects.
Talk Africa: Which areas have high malaria burden, and why?
Dr.Ogutu: They include areas like Lake Victoria basin in western Kenya such as Kakamega and others. In dry areas, we have seasonal malaria transmissions which last for a short period Of time. Areas like Makueni and kitui have short seasons of transmission. Mandera is another area that falls under this category where during short rains there are cases of transmission of malaria which do not last for long.
Talk Africa: Any other interventions that have been used fight Malaria?
Dr Ogutu: Use of treated mosquito nets and diagnostics have been used. Diagnostics have been helpful by justifying that anybody having a fever does not necessarily have Malaria.