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Saturday 26th May 2018

Malaria slows in The Gambia

3rd November 2008

Scientists say it may now be possible to eliminate malaria in parts of Africa following new figures which show that the incidence of of the deadly disease has fallen significantly in The Gambia in the last 5 years.


A study carried out by experts in The Gambia with support from scientists based in the UK investigated the changes that have occurred over the past nine years, their potential causes, and public health significance.

The study, funded by the UK Medical Research Council, analysed original records in order to establish the numbers and proportions of malaria inpatients, deaths and blood-slide examinations at one hospital between January 1999 and December 2007 and at four health facilities in three different administrative regions between January 2001 and December 2007.

Additional data from single sites for haemoglobin concentrations in paediatric admissions and for the age distribution of malaria admissions, was also obtained.

The findings show that the incidence of malaria, a major cause of illness and death in African countries, may be on the decline in The Gambia.

They looked at four complete slide examiniation records at four sites, and that the proportions of malaria-positive slides had decreased by 82%, 85%, 73% and 50% respectively between 2003 and 2007.

The proportions of malaria admissions fell by 74%, 69% and 27% meanwhile, during the same period at the three sites with complete admission records.

There was also a fall of more than 90% in the proportions of deaths attributed to malaria in two hospitals.

The average age of children admitted to one hospital with malaria rose after 2004, with far fewer under 5s being admitted after that year. Before 2004, the average age of malaria admissions had remained steady for a decade.

Health authorities in The Gambia have stepped up malaria prevention methods for pregnant women and children considerably in recent years, including intermittent preventive treatment, the use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying.

Socio-economic changes, improvements in communications and access to education are also thought to have contributed to the improved malaria statistics, although researchers saw a link to the change in drug therapies used around 2004.

Before 2004, chloroquine alone was mainly used, but then sulphadoxine plus pyrimethamine (SP) combined with chloroquine began to be used from early 2005 onwards in response to growing resistance in the malaria parasite.

SP has prophylactic as well as curative properties which may have been important, researchers noted.

Experts say the study shows that increased investment in malaria interventions in African countries can have a major impact on the numbers of people contracting it and dying from it.


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