Posts or Comments 28 September 2021

Monthly Archive for "May 2017"



Drug Development &Treatment Bill Brieger | 29 May 2017

World No Tobacco Day – except to make malaria drugs

May 31st marks World No Tobacco Day. The Theme for 2017 is “Tobacco – a threat to development.” According to WHO, “Tobacco control has been enshrined in the Sustainable Development Agenda. It is seen as one of the most effective means to help achieve SDG target 3.4 of a one-third reduction globally, by 2030, of premature deaths from  noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).” Control is also associated with positive environmental and anti-poverty outcomes.

It is ironic then that the tobacco plant itself may be modified to produce life saving anti-malarial medicines. Nature reported that because Artemisia annua produces a precursor of the compound, artemisinic acid, only in low quantities, it is expensive to grow.  Consequently, “a team led by Ralph Bock at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam-Golm, Germany, inserted genes for artemisinic acid synthesis into tobacco plants’ chloroplasts — abundant organelles that have their own DNA. By adding ‘accessory genes’ that make artemisinic acid production more efficient, they created a line that pumps out 120 milligrams of artemisinic acid per kilogram of biomass.”

Science magazine followed up to report that although “several years ago researchers transplanted the drugmaking genes into yeast, allowing them to collect the compound from a microbial brew, the fermentation process is still relatively expensive.” Tobacco, on the other hand, is an “inexpensive, high-volume crop.” Inserting the right genes into tobacco, they noted, would enable “harvesting artemisinic acid from a plot of land 200 square kilometers—less area than a city the size of Boston—would provide enough artemisinin to meet the entire worldwide demand.”

Malhotra et al. discovered another novel approach that found that, “Partially purified extracts from the leaves of transgenic tobacco plants inhibited in vitro growth progression of Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells. Oral feeding of whole intact plant cells bioencapsulating the artemisinin reduced the parasitemia levels in challenged mice in comparison with commercial drug. Such novel synergistic approaches should facilitate low-cost production and delivery of artemisinin and other drugs through metabolic engineering of edible plants.”

Another approach looks at malaria vaccines. Beiss et al. note that malaria “transmission blocking vaccine (TBVs) need to be produced in large quantities at low cost.” They found a high level  transient expression in fresh leaves of Nicotiana benthamiana of an effective TBV candidate. Likewise Jones et al. demonstrated the potential of the new malaria vaccine candidate and also support feasibility of expressing Plasmodium antigens in Nicotiana benthamiana.

The American Cancer Society observed that most African Countries are in the early stages of the tobacco epidemic. This may be a good time to switch the production of tobacco on the continent from purveyor of cancer and NCDs to a ‘factory’ for producing malaria medicines. The sooner this can be done, the better since artemisinin  resistance is a growing threat.

Elimination &Epidemiology &Funding &IPTp &ITNs &Procurement Supply Management &Treatment Bill Brieger | 20 May 2017

Ghana – spotlight on malaria indicators

The Demographic and Health Surveys has released a brief on key indicators from the Ghana Malaria Indicator Survey of 2016. While much of the malaria community is discussing the elimination framework and processes, the reality is that many high burden countries are still trying to scale up basic interventions to achieve universal coverage.

The overall prevalence across the country in children aged 6-59 months at the time of the survey was 27% using Rapid Diagnostic test and 20% using microscopy.  Among children reporting fever in the previous two weeks care/advice was sought for only 72%. Although only only 30% received some sort of blood based diagnostic test, 61% of the febrile children were given the antimalarial artemisinin-based combination therapy drugs.

Children are still being treated without the benefit of parasitological testing, a key procedure highlighted in WHO case management guidelines. Presumptive treatment for malaria without testing means that a child could inappropriately receive antimalarial drugs and die of another underlying febrile illness. Appropriate testing and adherence to test results is one of the main areas of focus of Ghana’s grants from the US President’s Malaria Initiative. Improved testing is also an important element in Ghana’s current Global Fund support. Clearly more value for money is needed from these inputs.

Preventive measures as documented in the MIS fare somewhat better., but at present only 73% of households own an insecticide treated bednet. When considering the recommended 1 net for every 2 household members, the indicator drops to 50%. Concerning the typical ‘vulnerable’ populations, we see that only 52% of children below the age of 5 years slept under an ITN the night before the survey; only 50% of pregnant women did likewise.

Malaria prevention in pregnancy results reflect the fact that Ghana has promoted at least three IPTp doses for around ten years. Most pregnant women (78% ) had received the previously recommended minimum of two doses, and now 60% have received at least three doses.

One of the important issues stressed in WHO’s new malaria elimination framework is stratifying the country by prevalence to the lowest level possible in order to plan appropriate interventions. Fortunately the Ghana 217 MIS key indicator brief does stratify prevalence and intervention coverage by region.  Prevalence through RDT testing ranges from nearly 5% in the urbanized greater Accra area to 44% in the Central Region. Interestingly ITN use is nearly 20% higher in Central than greater Accra.

Hopefully future planning in Ghana will build on this stratification. Better mobilization of donor, national and private sector resources will address likely issues of stock-outs and increase the likelihood of universal coverage of basic interventions that is needed to move the country along the road to malaria elimination.

Asia &Case Management &Diagnosis &Elimination &MDA Bill Brieger | 12 May 2017

Nepal on the Path to Malaria Elimination

Jhpiego’s Emmanuel Le Perru has been placed with Nepal’s malaria control program by the Maternal and Child Survival Program (USAID) to strengthen the agency’s overall response to malaria as well as ensure top performance of Nepal’s Global Fund Malaria grant. Emmanuel shares his experiences with us here.

From 3,000 cases in 2010, Nepal reported around 1,000 cases in 2016, including 85% Plasmodium vivax cases. However private sector reporting is almost null so number of total cases may be the double. Nepal’s National Malaria Strategic Plan (NMSP) targets Elimination by 2022 (0 indigenous cases) with WHO certification by 2026.

Ward Level Micro-stratification is an important step for targeting appropriate interventions. Key interventions in the NMSP include case notification system by SMS (from health post workers or district vector control inspectors) to a Malaria Disease Information System, later to be merged with DHIS2. Case investigation teams conduct case and foci profiling as well as “passive cases” active detection and treatment (including staff from district such as surveillance coordinator, vector control inspector, and entomologist).

Malaria Mobile Clinics actively search/treat new cases in high risk areas (slums, brick factories, river villages or flooded areas, migrant workers villages, etc.). PCR diagnosis with Dry Blood Spot or Whole Blood is used to identify low density parasite cases, relapses or re-introduction. Coming up in April-June 2018 will be a Pilot of MDA (primaquine) for Plasmodium vivax in isolated settings (80% of cases in the country are P vivax).

Recent successes in the national malaria effort include the number of cases notified by SMS went from 0% to 45%. Also the number of cases fully investigated went from 22% to 52%, though this needs to go up to 95% for elimination. 73% of districts are now submitting timely malaria data reports per national guidelines, an increase from 52% in November 2015.

The border runs right through this town making importation of malaria cases easy

The Global Fund (GFATM) malaria grant rating went from B2 to A2. Nepal Epidemiology Disease Control Division (EDCD), WHO and GFATM are keen to pilot MDA for P vivax in isolated setting which MCSP/Jhpiego Advisor taking the lead.

Moving forward the malaria elimination effort needs to address Indo-Nepal Cross boarder collaboration since 45% cases are imported. Hopefully WHO will help EDCD Nepal to propose a plan of action to India. The program still needs to convince partners of relevance of malaria mobile clinics vs community testing and of the relevance of MDA for P vivax. More entomological and PCR/laboratory expertise is needed. With these measures malaria elimination should be in sight.

IPTp &Malaria in Pregnancy Bill Brieger | 05 May 2017

Supporting Midwives to Prevent Malaria on International Day of the Midwife

Midwives play at least two crucial roles when it comes to saving the lives of pregnant women in malaria endemic areas. First as the health staff responsible for providing intermittent preventive treatment for malaria in pregnancy (IPTp), midwives can ensure that women do not suffer the consequences and complications of malaria in the first place. Secondly, knowing that we may not be able to reach all pregnant women with the full package of malaria interventions in a timely manner, midwives are there to save lives from the complications to the mother and fetus arising from malaria-associated anemia and low birth weight. Today we focus on prevention.

Today on the International Day of the Midwife is a good time to examine how to strengthen midwives’ roles in preventing malaria and protecting women from its consequences. This year’s theme, “Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life!” is in line with our overall concern about ending malaria through partnership at all levels.

In providing antenatal/prenatal care (ANC) in stable malaria endemic areas, midwives are tasked with ensuring that pregnant women get an adequate number of doses of IPTp at the right time in their pregnancy. Previously only two doses were required, but now a pregnant woman can receive IPTp monthly from the beginning of the second trimester. The ability of the midwife to attract women to ANC and ensure that once there gets the required doses can be daunting.

A study in Uganda found that many pregnant women did not get the full regimen of IPTp and learned that several factors were responsible. Midwives’ education level and professional experience had a positive effect. Management issues such as the availability of safe drinking water and the drugs for intermittent preventive treatment were crucial. “Midwives who provided frequent health education to pregnant women, cooperated with village health team members and received in-service training were likely to provide effective anti-malaria services to pregnant women.” In short there are training and management interventions that can enable midwives to protect pregnant women better.

Examination of malaria prevention in ANC clinics in Malawi showed that providers generally did have correct information about IPTp, but at times did know understand the exact timing of doses. They knew that those on HIV infection prevention prophylaxis should not take IPTp and that IPTp should be given as directly observed treatment, but in many clinics there were lack of official written guidelines to help them recall procedures post-training.

Again, we can see that a variety of learning and management interventions can help midwives prevent malaria. Additional work in Uganda has shown the valuable role midwives can play as community health educators in encouraging ANC attendance and thus IPTp uptake. They need full support from the health system to do this important outreach.