Friday, March 09, 2007

Breakthrough malaria treatment

Aussie Scientists discover malaria treatment

Scientists in Australia's tropical north say they have discovered an effective treatment for the potentially deadly vivax malaria.

This is a major breakthrough because vivax is the commonest strain of malaria and is the scourge of many developing countries.

Researchers at the Northern Territory's Menzies School of Health Research say they have successfully trialled two treatments for the vivax strain of malaria in Timika in West Papua (the easternmost province in Indonesia).

The treatment combines a Chinese herbal extract and a longer-acting anti-malarial drug used to combat another, even more potent strain of the disease found in Africa.

In Running Amok, I write about malaria research going on in Timika (page 230) - not the good work carried out by the Menzies School - but a more dubious experiment being carried out by one American researcher using locals as live bait to catch and collect malaria-carrying mosquitoes! Timika is an extraordinary town carved out of the tropical jungle. Men from all over Indonesia have flocked to work at the nearby Freeport mine - one of the richest gold mines on earth. It's Indonesia's "wild east" - a place of considerable social and ethnic as well as health problems.

On page 190-191 you can also read about my wife Kim's ordeal with vivax malaria - including days of cold fits and high fever. We suspect that she was bitten during a stay at a luxury resort on the island of Lombok. Kim describes how the whole experience felt like near death. Luckily she was treated relatively quickly with Primaquine at an Australian Embassy clinic.

Most malaria sufferers don't have the advantage of being treated quickly or with access to the right drugs. Each year there are up to two million deaths from the disease.

It's reported that malaria causes the death of an African child every thirty seconds, and the main victims are young children and pregnant women.

The value of this new treatment can't be underestimated. It not only stops the malaria infection but it also protects sufferers from reinfection.

More about the history and cultural issues at Freeport

1 comment:

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