Chemoprevention is an important method of disease prevention that involves the use of drugs to prevent the occurrence of illness. For malaria, we focus on chemoprevention strategies most appropriate for the settings in countries where we work. These strategies include seasonal malaria chemoprevention for children under five and intermittent preventive treatment in pregnant women.
Other diseases can also sometimes be prevented through mass drug administration (MDA), which is the administration of drugs to entire populations for disease control and elimination. We have significant experience of conducting MDAs in South Sudan and Ethiopia for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs): onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths, lymphatic filariasis and trachoma. We are also seeking to integrate NTD management with existing community based health initiatives. Our experience in long-lasting insecticidal net distribution and seasonal malaria chemoprevention administration is being used to improve mass drug administration for NTDs.
Seasonal malaria chemoprevention
In the continued fight against malaria, there is an increased recognition of the need to tailor interventions to suit local conditions and specific contexts. The World Health Organization estimates that 31 million children could benefit from seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) in areas where malaria incidence increases with the rainy season.
SMC involves the provision of antimalarial medicines at monthly intervals during the rainy season, and has been proven to be effective in reducing cases of malaria by 75 percent. If this level of prevention is achieved at scale, this would transform the lives of those most at risk by avoiding infection and consequently reducing the demand for treatments at community and facility level, improving school attendance, and decreasing government expenditure on malaria – freeing up these funds for use elsewhere. If widely deployed, SMC could make an important contribution to reducing the global malaria burden.
Malaria Consortium is continuing to help protect millions of children from malaria during the rainy season. We are working with national governments and international partners to help secure additional resources so that more children can benefit from this highly effective approach to malaria prevention, both now and into the future.
Intermittent preventive treatment
Intermittent preventive treatment involves the administration of a full course of anti-malarial drugs to vulnerable subjects at specified times regardless of whether or not they have malaria. It is particularly targeted at children and pregnant women in high risk areas. Intermittent preventive treatment for malaria in pregnancy is provided to women in high malaria burden countries during during their pregnancy to protect both them and their unborn child from malaria.
Malaria vaccines are an area of intensive research. Although there is currently no vaccine in use, trials are underway and it is hoped that one will be available for widespread use within the next decade. Vaccine development is a costly but potentially revolutionary area of malaria prevention, and one that requires ongoing funding. A vaccine will not, however, be 100 percent effective so all other prevention and control activities will need to remain in place.