Issue 6
Tuesday, 07 August 2018
Charles Darwin University
Researchers call for new malaria treatment
Researchers call for new malaria treatment

Call for radical new treatment for malaria

A team of malaria experts, led by the Menzies School of Health Research, has developed research supporting the need for a radical new treatment of a widespread form of malaria.

The research supports the need for a different cure strategy to tackle one of the most debilitating forms of malaria caused by the Plasmodium vivax parasite.

Vivax malaria affects more than 13 million people each year, with an estimated 40 per cent of the world’s population at risk of contracting the infection across all continents from South America to South-East Asia.

In some regions, the vivax malaria has become resistant to standard treatment with chloroquine. The problem is compounded by the strain’s ability to lie dormant in the liver for long periods of time before causing recurrent infections that have an enduring impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

The study is the result of collaboration between more than 50 international researchers under the auspices of the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN).

PhD candidate at Menzies Dr Rob Commons, who is part of the WWARN Clinical Group, said the findings highlighted the substantial benefit of a modest increase in the dose of chloroquine in children aged under five years and the importance of combining primaquine with chloroquine to have a better chance of curing patients.

“This analysis of more than 5000 patients from 37 studies, across 17 countries, is the largest individual patient data meta-analysis of vivax clinical trials to date. Our results show chloroquine is currently given in lower doses than recommended, with as many as 35 per cent of patients in trials given less than the recommended dose.

“We also know from our analysis that these patients are more likely to fail treatment,” Dr Commons said.

The researchers found the need for clinicians in affected areas to provide a radical cure to kill the blood and liver stage of the vivax parasite and ensure patients can recover quickly. This also would help to prevent transmission of the parasite to other people and reduce the global burden of this disease.

The study highlighted some important potential adjustments that are needed to ensure all patients, especially small children, are given the best chance of recovery from vivax malaria.