Saturday, October 25, 2014

Beyond Ebola

The current focus on ebola should not let the impact of malaria (as well as other illnesses) and the campaign to develop a vaccine for malaria be forgotten about. While endeavouring to contain the present ebola epidemic,  Liberia's Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan explains"As we and our many international partners struggle to douse the wildfire caused by Ebola, we have been left with inadequate resources, time and personnel to attend to other routine illnesses like malaria, typhoid fever and measles, thereby causing many more tangential deaths," he said. 

Malaria is associated with high mortality and morbidity especially among children under five and pregnant women.  Around 90 per cent of estimated deaths from malaria occur in sub-Saharan Africa and 77 per cent of these are in children under the age of five.

Data from the phase III vaccine trial programme shows hope that a malaria vaccine is just a step away.

Plant-based therapies have held the ace in the treatment of malaria from chloroquine obtained from the Quinine bark also called Cinchona tree to the artemisin from the Chinese salad plant, Artemisia annua. Unfortunately, the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, has begun to develop resistance to the WHO-endorsed treatment ACT, made from Artemisia annua.

  Nigerian researchers have discovered and validated local plants that treat malaria like World Health Organisation (WHO)-endorsed drugs such as Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs), amodiaquine, mefloquine and sulphadoxine/pyrimethamine. A recent study published in Malaria Journal has identified medicinal plants such as Momordica charantia (bitter melon), Momordica balsamina (balsam apple), Ageratum conyzoides (goat weed), and Diospyros monbuttensis (Yoruba ebony or walking stick ebony) to be very efficacious in the treatment of drug resistant malaria. The results of the study showed sensitivity of 100 Plasmodium falciparum (malaria parasite) isolates to chloroquine, quinine, amodiaquine, mefloquine, sulphadoxine/pyrimethamine, artemisinin, Momordica charantia, Diospyros monbuttensis and Morinda lucida. The researchers concluded: "Natural products isolated from plants used in traditional medicine, which have potent anti-plasmodial action in vitro, represent potential sources of new anti-malarial drugs." 

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