Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces disease and prevents death. It also contributes to reducing malaria transmission. The best available treatment, particularly for P. Falciparum malaria (the most prevalent in sub Saharan Africa), is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). An ACT contains both the drug artemisinin and a partner drug. The role of artemisinin is to reduce the number of parasites within the first three days while the partner drugs eliminate the rest. When arteminsinin is used alone the parasite can return but when combined with other drugs it prevents recurrence and speedy recovery.
It is widely recommended that all cases of suspected malaria be confirmed using parasite-based diagnostic testing (either microscopy or rapid diagnostic test) before administering treatments. The choice of testing method would be dependent on the medical facilities available. RDTs are helping to ensure the opportunity for testing reach a wider audience.
The discovery of the RTS, S vaccine portends fresh hope in the fight against malaria. The vaccine is an injectable that is administered in four doses. It aims to trigger the body’s own immune system to defend against malaria caused by plasmodium falciparum. The vaccine is scheduled to be pilot tested in 2018 in three countries across Africa – Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
Prevention is a better choice than treatment and vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmissions. Insecticide treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying are two forms of effective vector control.
Insecticide-treated mosquito nets: Mosquito nets have long been an effective way to protect people from mosquito and insect bites but the sharp proboscis of the mosquito (the long, narrow mouth part the mosquito uses to pierce the skin and suck the blood of its victims) can penetrate the net. ITNs are more powerful protection against mosquitoes and the parasites they carry. The nets are treated with a type of insecticide that is deadly to mosquitoes and other insects but usually harmless to people and pets. Use of ITNs is one of the most effective methods of reducing malaria in endemic areas. Research shows that ownership and use of ITNs reduces mortality in children under five by about 20 percent and malarial infection among children under five and pregnant women by up to 50 percent.
ITNs that last for up to three years are called LLINs (long lasting insecticide treated nets) and WHO recommends universal coverage of LLINs in malaria prone areas.
Indoor residual spraying (IRS): Indoor residual spraying is a vector control method that involves the spraying of residual insecticide on interior walls of homes to kill mosquitoes, thereby interrupting malaria transmission. IRS can kill a mosquito anytime it enters a house for a blood meal, which it typically does every 2-3 days. So that few will survive the approximately 12 days that are required for malaria parasites to complete part of their life cycle in the vector mosquito, if all the houses they visit are properly sprayed. The effectiveness of IRS depends on a number of factors including: application procedure, efficacy of insecticide, well maintained equipment, high proportion of sprayed houses in target area, and a few other factors.