By Eric Biegon in Guangzhou, China
China says its recently adopted strategy of treating Malaria will most certainly wipe the disease off the face of the earth in the next 10 years.
The announcement comes against a backdrop of increased burden of Malaria in Kenya as statistics indicate excess of 10,000 deaths caused by the disease annually.
A group of Guangzhou-based researchers indeed affirm that shifting focus to eradication of malaria parasites in human body as opposed to prevention of mosquito bites remains the only practical option to guarantee a malaria free society.
The researchers drawn from Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine are without a doubt optimistic that stopping malaria parasites from reproducing and multiplying in human body cells will deal a massive blow to their very existence.
“Our strategy seeks to eliminate blood borne malaria parasites from the human body. It is no secret that it is the human body cells which gives shelter to the parasite. Mosquitos extract it from human beings.” Said Dr. Deng Changsheng.
To achieve this, Dr. Dengsays the Chinese model of eliminating parasites reservoirs in human body cells is the most suitable. He maintains that focus should be on the human body given that the carrier mosquitos only have a lifespan of between 28-35 days.
“Fast Elimination of Malaria by Source Eradication, FEMSE is hugely effective. It has been tried in malaria endemic countries such as Cambodia, Comoros, Vietnam and even China with great success. It is 98 percent effective.” Said Dr. Deng.
This approach according to Dr. Deng is effected through Mass Drug Administration (MDA) with China’s own Artemisinin-based combination therapies.
“We have enhanced Artemisinin with Piperaquine. The resultant is Artequick. This drug acts rapidly in different parts of blood-borne parasites life cycle. It is more effective than any other malaria medicine. So far there is no recorded resistance to this medicine.” He said.
And he says this therapy has received backing from the World Health Organization.
“We have held several meetings with WHO officials to discuss use of Artemisinin to control Malaria in high endemic areas. The World Health Organization approved the use of our medicine two years ago.” Dr. Deng explained.
Malaria burden in Africa
In fact Dr. Dengand his team of researchers are adamant that this is what Africa needs. In their opinion, this is a chance to reduce malaria burden in the continent, which according to the World Health Organization, suffers most.
“Sub-Sahara Africa carries a disproportionately high share of global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 89% of malaria cases and 91 percent of malaria deaths”. He said.
The team says the pilot projects especially in Comoros bore great success if results from a high epidemic area to a low epidemic area without malaria death in a short period are anything to go by.
“Our evaluation of malaria control with Artemisinin plus Mass Drug Administration in Comoros between 2007-2014 shows that malaria occurrence fell by a large margin with a reduction of more than 99.8 % and zero deaths related to Malaria recorded.” He said.
He says the treatment model is good for Africa particularly when the issue of cost is factored. He disclosed that the total average treatment per person is a meagre 17 US dollars an equivalent of 1,700 Kenya shillings.
But the scientists are pushing for an extensive understanding of this strategy transferred to the continent if it is to guarantee long term success.
In an interview with a group of African journalists who toured the institution in Guangdong province, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine lead researchers disclosed that they are open to cooperation with universities, research institutions and scientists from all across Africa.
“We want our friends in Africa to understand our progress in Artemisinin anti-malarial research. We are willing to join forces in our work to deal a massive blow to malaria and guarantee a healthy population.” Said Mr. Wang Zhaoliang, President of the university.
But he noted that African governments must express willingness to this technical cooperation given that partnership in the medical sector is a government to government initiative.
China adopted this model of treatment 19 years ago with significant improvements. The doctors attribute a nearly 100 percent extermination of the disease in China to the Artemisinin Mass Drug Administration method, which at the moment, they disclosed, is undergoing trial in Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi.
Artemisinin was discovered by Chinese female pharmacologist Tu Youyou, who became the first ever China-based researcher to receive a Nobel Prize in science.