At least 10 years for new malaria drug

Catherine Karong'o | 06 Nov 2023
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 6 - Health experts attending the Pan-African Malaria Conference now say that it would take another 10 years before a new malaria drug is developed and about seven years for new pesticides to control and treat malaria.

This comes a few days after the World Health Organisation, at the same meeting, raised the alarm over a new trend of malaria vector resistance to pyrethroid, the chemical used to treat bed nets and the Artemesinin Based Combination Therapy which is the recommended anti malarial drugs.

According to Dr Stephan Duparc, Medical Director Medicines for Malaria Venture, the long duration is because the process of formulating new medicine and registration is long.

"The bad news is that if the resistance comes and spreads in large scale, we could have trouble," he said.

World Health Organisation Senior Advisor, Antimalaria Policy and Access Dr Andrew Kitua said there was need for continuous research on new drugs to ensure when resistance is full scale countries are ready.

"What may trigger resistance very fast is the misuse of those drugs, under dosages, and worse still is the availability of counterfeits because resistance comes when the parasite or the mosquito for insecticide gets in touch with the chemical or drug but is not killed," he said.

On Tuesday, the health experts said that a malaria vaccine, which would help prevent the spread of the killer disease and ultimately eradicate the virus could be made available to African governments by the year 2012.

The World Health Organisation classifies malaria as a leading killer disease especially in children under the age of five years.

The Artemisinin Based Combination Therapy (ACT) is the only recommended anti-malarial drug, after sulphur based medicines like fansidar which were monotherapies were termed ineffective by the health body after developing resistance.

The pyrethroid replaced DDT which was previously used for indoor residual spraying but was found to be a persistent organic pollutant known to be damaging to human health and the environment.

Pyrethroids are now widely used in public health because of their relative safety for humans but are now developing resistance in some parts of the world including Eastern Uganda on the Uganda-Kenya border.