Malaria Center Looks Toward Testing of New Malaria Drugs
|Oct 18, 2001
By Brian Calvert
The staff will be accompanying EC malaria expert Dr
Sean Hewitt and Tim Davis, an independent malaria consultant, to see if
the facilities in Snuol are capable of storing blood for advanced tests
later in Phnom Penh.
Davis, a professor at the University of Western
Australia, has a background in tropical medicine research and spent four
years studying with an Oxford University research unit in Thailand.
Davis arrived in Cambodia Wednesday and will spend one
week here, inspecting facilities and also advising provincial health
officials on the current updates in malaria treatment around the world.
The National Malaria Center is involved in an ongoing
program to test the effectiveness of combination drugs, which are more
effective against drug-resistant malaria parasites than single-drug
therapies, Hewitt said.
Malaria experts are now testing the drug Artekan 2,
which is produced in China, for effectiveness in Cambodia.
Artekan 2 could be more effective than the current
combination therapies available for two reasons, Hewitt said.
First, during testing in other countries there have
been few side effects such as nausea, he said. Second, the dosage is
only for two days, which increases the odds of patients sticking with
the drug for its full dosage.
The current preferred therapy is a combination of
Artesunate and Mefloquine, which is a three-day course of treatment.
Cambodian officials pioneered use of that combination as one of the 'first-line'
treatments against one of the country's top killers.
Some patients, however, stop taking medication after
the first or second day when they start to feel better. That, in turn,
strengthens the malaria parasite against the same drugs in the future.
Davis said he and other researchers are constantly
working to find drugs that are affordable, effective in treatment and
tolerable to patients.
The drugs used in Artekan 2 have been shown to be
effective in other countries. It has been tested with positive results
Hewitt said the testing in Vietnam was difficult
because the concentration of malaria patients was relatively low. The
Cambodia study is augmenting the one done in Vietnam.
The Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh is providing the
labs and technical assistance to the National Malaria Center. The EC
provides some funding and technical assistance for field work, during
which blood is drawn from patients and stored.
Patients in which malaria recurs are tested at the lab.
Their blood is analyzed to discover whether the malaria parasites were
developing resistance to certain drugs, or whether the person had been
bitten again by a different malaria-carrying mosquito.
The advanced tests on Artekan 2 could lead to a change
in the way malaria is fought, Hewitt said.