Three new but independent studies have recorded breakthrough against two of the most deadly diseases in Africa- tuberculosis (TB) and malaria.
Results of a new study involving over 3, 000 women in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi and Zambia show four available antimalarial treatments are safe to use in pregnancy, providing sound scientific evidence on their use.
The PREGACT study (PREGnancy Artemisinin-based Combination Treatments) study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The four-year study (2012-2015) was led by the Belgian Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp (ITM) and coordinated by Professor Umberto D’Alessandro.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), last year, an estimated 214 million people worldwide contracted malaria and the scourge is particularly lethal to children under five, who accounted for 70 per cent of the roughly 440,000 deaths.
The WHO said Africa is essentially ground zero for malaria, and last year, 88 per cent of malaria cases and 90 per cent of deaths linked to the disease were there.
According to WHO, malaria cases and deaths have dropped a lot in recent years- between 2000 and 2015, new malaria cases fell by 37 per cent globally and 42 per cent in Africa.
It noted that malaria death rates plunged by 60 per cent globally and 66 per cent in Africa because of the three key reasons are greater use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor spraying and artemisinin-based combination therapies. The latter medicines are very effective against Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest and most common malaria parasite.
Also, according to largest-ever clinical trial on malaria during pregnancy in Africa, published over the weekend in The Lancet medical journal, a low cost, easy to use, urine test to diagnose TB among patients with Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) could help reduce the TB death rate of HIV-positive patients in hospital.
The authors of the study, which was conducted in 10 hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa, say that if implemented more widely, this low-cost intervention could save thousands of lives per year.
According to the study, in Africa, nearly 40 per cent of all adult deaths related to HIV or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) are due to tuberculosis, but almost half of the TB cases remain undiagnosed and untreated before death.
Also, experts have revealed that a new drug that ‘literally blows up’ malaria parasites in the blood could offer a new treatment for the disease.
Now, a team from Rutgers University, in New Jersey, United States (U.S.) believes they are one step closer to realizing that aim.
Researchers are set to embark on a new clinical trial, testing a new drug candidate.
Senior author of the TB study and project supervisor, Prof. Keertan Dheda, from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, said, “This is the first trial of any diagnostic test for tuberculosis to show a reduction in the number of deaths. The reduction in mortality is likely to be because urine-testing, in conjunction with routine testing, resulted in a greater proportion of patients starting tuberculosis treatment early.”