Zim switches to new malaria drug

HARARE - Zimbabwe has launched a new treatment for malaria, marking the latest step in a program to stem growing resistance to older treatments such as chloroquine.

This comes as multidrug-resistant malaria superbugs have taken hold in parts of Zimbabwe, threatening to undermine progress against the disease.

Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa said the decision to change the drug treatment has been informed by the high rate of resistance.

Zimbabwe remains a high malaria burden country, with over 89 000 cases of the deadly disease and 151 deaths recorded in the first nine weeks of 2017.

“What has happened with malaria is that there is a new first line drug treatment called artemisinin — which is the newest drug now that is being used for malaria. Other drugs such as chloroquine were found to be resistant in many areas,” Parirenyatwa said in an interview with the Daily News.

“In other words, if you give chloroquine, the person is not healed because the mosquito ‘bacteria’ was now resisting chloroquine, that’s why we went to artemisinin, and that’s our first line of treatment now.

“The resistance is rampant enough for us to sit down and say let’s change the protocol.”

Last week, three Health ministers from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi signed an agreement committing to fighting malaria by designing and implementing a comprehensive and coordinated response to the disease.

Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through bites by the female anopheles mosquito.

“The burden of malaria now as you know, because of the flooding, the waters, there was more breeding sites of malaria but particularly along the borders , it’s along the borders with Mozambique that we have the highest burden and we went there,” Parirenyatwa said.

“That’s why we went to Mozambique to try and see how we can treat our people on both sides of the border.”

Other issues affecting the treatment of malaria in Zimbabwe, according to the Health ministry, were of people failing to access clinics to get treatment and some going to seek treatment when it’s too late.

The most affected areas are low lying areas including Beitbridge, as it is a transit town, Chiredzi, Chipinge, Mutare, Mutasa, Goromonzi, Centenary, Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe and Bindura.

 

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