<”p” class="grop-txt-block ”grop-semi-txt”">”[KISUMU,”p”> A suppository form of the common antimalarial artesunate has dramatically cut child deaths from severe malaria in a trial in rural Zambia, one of the organisations behind the programme has said”]
The suppository formulation was given to children who were assessed before referral to a health facility.
“Knowledge of severe malaria danger signs at a community level improved significantly, with more than 85 per cent of community health volunteers knowing three or more danger signs at endline compared to less than 50 per cent at baseline,” explained Pierre Hugo, a director at the Swiss-based not-for-profit Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), in an interview with SciDev.Net.
Although WHO guidelines for the treatment of malaria have included recommendations for the use of the suppository form of the drug, known as rectal artesunate suppository (RAS), for over ten years, until recently there was no quality-assured RAS product on the market.
In the past this has forced malaria-endemic countries to choose from drug supplies that did not meet international standards.
To address this, the MMV is collaborating with two Indian pharmaceutical companies, Strides and Cipla, to secure WHO prequalification of RAS as part of a project funded by the international malaria initiative UNITAID.
Hugo explained that the trial aimed to increase access to quality-assured artesunate at the community level and to reduce deaths from severe malaria in children under six by improving case management of severe malaria in children.
As part of the trial, trained community health volunteers administered the drug to all children from six months to six years old with severe malaria cases and referred them to health facilities. An emergency transport system set up as part of the trial was used by 70 per cent of the patients, the researchers added.