Advancements in Malaria Treatment in 2019

A spate of newly-developed drugs continue our uphill struggle to find a reliable cure for malaria.

If statistics are to be believed, in 2016 alone there were an estimated 216 million malaria cases in a total of 91 countries. Moreover, in the United States of America, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report a total of 1700 annual cases of malaria.

It has also been found that the majority of the cases develop in individuals who travel to those countries where it is more common to contract malaria.  

Malaria can easily be regarded as a life-threatening disease. Typically, it is transmitted when an infected Anopheles mosquito bites an individual.

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These infected mosquitoes also carry with them the Plasmodium parasite. The moment this mosquito bites us, the Plasmodium parasite is released directly into our bloodstream.

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Moreover, once these parasites are inside our body, things become even more dangerous as they travel directly to the liver - a place where they mature. Then, after a couple of days, these mature parasites re-enter the bloodstream and then start infecting our Red Blood Cells (RBCs).

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The parasites start multiplying in the RBCs within 48-72 hours and cause the infected cells in the bloodstream to burst open. Thereafter, these parasites continue their work by infecting the red blood cells. This finally results in symptoms that show in a cycle of 2-3 days at a time.    

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What is the first sign of malaria?

An attack of malaria usually begins with chills and shivering, which is then followed by a high fever. An individual usually then experiences a profundity of sweating, after which they are likely to return to normal temperature.

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The signs and symptoms of malaria usually start within a few weeks after an infected Anopheles mosquito has bitten a person.  

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It is also worth noting that, in the beginning, malaria feels much like the flu as victims experience symptoms such as fatigue, high fever, hot and cold stages as well as body aches. The symptoms of malaria are also quite similar to those of yellow fever, which is a viral disease.

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These symptoms and signs might be a bit non-specific in children, which can result in a delayed diagnosis. Other symptoms include nausea, headache, weakness and shaking chills or rigors.

Can you fully recover from malaria and is it curable?

Malaria can be treated given the right administration of drugs. In such a scenario, it is possible to rid the body of all the parasites of malaria and cure the disease.

That said, it is possible for the disease to continue infecting the red blood cells if the right treatment is not administered or if the wrong drugs are used to treat the disease. In addition to that, the duration of the treatment of malaria depends on the type of malaria that an individual has contracted.

If not treated promptly, malaria can go on for several months and can prove to be fatal. 

What is the best treatment available for malaria?

According to studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine, there is an all-new one-dose drug that can prevent the relapse of malaria. This wonder drug is known as tafenoquine, and it has been found through research that it can prove to be an anti-relapse drug for patients who have been infected with the parasite Plasmodium vivax malaria.

Moreover, this drug has been revealed to be safe and effective. 

The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration approved tafenoquine in 2018. As a result, this drug was made the very first medicine to be used to target the malaria parasite in over 60 years.

In January this year, there were new findings of another anti-malarial drug called Artemisinin. This product is derived from the flowers and leaves of Artemisia annua, which is annual mugwort.

This medicine has been traditionally used as Chinese healing medicine for centuries. Tu Youyou, a Chinese researcher tested its effectiveness for which he even received the Nobel Prize.

Typically, Artemisinin, as well as its semi-synthetic derivatives, are together called "artemisinins." These are used to treat malaria as well as other tropical infectious diseases.

This medicine has been known to be quite effective in the treatment of malaria as the molecules present in it influence the activation of multiple cellular processes in humans. In addition to that, it has also been found that artemisinins might be the cure of other diseases such as some types of cancer, diabetes, and even neurological diseases like schizophrenia and Alzheimer's.

Outside of these drugs, there are a lot of treatments and drugs that are administered to cure malaria. Drugs such as Quinine, Chloroquine, Tetracycline, Mefloquine, etc. are also used for the treatment of malaria as they are very active against the different forms of parasites in the bloodstream.

Moreover, tafenoquine and primaquine are super-active drugs against the parasites that may lie dormant. Hence, they have proved to be effective to prevent relapses.

That said, the CDC recommends that these two drugs not be taken orally or otherwise by individuals who are deficient in glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase or by pregnant women. 

It is also pertinent to note here that the treatment of malaria depends on a variety of factors such as the species or the type of the infecting parasite, pregnancy, drug allergies, any accompanying condition or illness and the clinical status of a patient. Furthermore, the precise area where a patient became infected as well as its drug-resistance status also play major roles in determining the treatment that will be administered to a patient.

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According to the conditions mentioned above, malaria treatment might be administered radically or suppressively.

Final words

Although malaria is still considered to be a life-threatening disease, we have come a long way when it comes to treating its symptoms effectively. A wealth of new treatments and drugs have proven to be beneficial in malaria treatment. However, early diagnosis and the timely administration of the correct treatment, as well as further research, are key to the permanent curing of malaria.

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