This week in our special series we're looking at strategies used to fight malaria. Health experts say pregnant women are more susceptible to the disease than other adults, especially women who are pregnant for the first time.
Up to 30 million African women become pregnant each year in areas where malaria is prevalent, and more than 200,000 newborns die each of the disease. Health experts are working to prevent malaria in pregnant women and to treat those already infected.
One group focusing on new anti-malaria strategies is JHPIEGO, an international health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. A senior program officer at jhpiego, Rebecca Deneen, talked about the latest efforts to fight the disease, including the search for alternatives to drugs that lost their effectiveness against the malaria parasite.
Deneen said sulfdoxine pyremethanine, known by the brand name Fansidar, is replacing chloroquine, which has lost its effectiveness in Burkina Faso and many East African countries. Deneen said work is being done with the governments of a number of countries to help them change their protocols to intermittent preventive treatment using Fansidar. "We help ministries of health to see the evidence showing the parasite's resistance to chloroquine and to show that a two-dose regimen of Fansidar was more effective than the weekly dose of chloroquine," she said.
Deneen said it's important to note that Fansidar is not to be used in the first trimester of pregnancy. She also emphasized the need to use insecticide-treated nets, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy, when the drug cannot be taken.
According to Deneen, these efforts are components of a three-part strategy that partners in the current "Roll Back Malaria" campaign are using. "The goals include making sure that the quality of the work at health facilities is optimal, that women are receiving education, [and that] new doctors, nurses and midwives are all learning new policies to practice in health facility settings.