National Malaria Center Sets Priorities for Next Five Years

Sept 20, 2001 

By Brian Calvert
The Cambodia Daily
 

The National Malaria Center continues to expand its activities, and the next five years will see changes to the way it battles the deadly parasite, a malaria expert said Wednesday. 

The center's five-year master plan's recently approved by the Ministry of Health will include more research projects and a few different methods of maintaining 'early diagnosis and prompt treatments,' said the expert, requesting anonymity. 

The five-year plan is based on several basics of malaria protection: early diagnosis, prompt treatments, prevention through the use of nets and education, capacity building and research projects. 

'We're more sure now of our treatments,' the expert said, citing a new field test kit as one example. 

Previously, malaria experts in the field relied on a 'dipstick' method of testing that could find a deadly type of malaria, p falciparum. Drops of blood are set on the stick, which has indicators that change color if the parasite is present. 

Now a refined dipstick will be used, one that can find other types of malaria as well. That will help provide more accurate treatment of rural patients, the expert said. 

The center currently uses two drugs to treat malaria, Mefloquine and Artesunate, but under the new five-year plan, other drugs may be used. Certain treatments and combinations of drugs are being tested now in Cambodia, mainly to combat the problem of drug resistance. 

'One of the main problems in Cambodia is increasing drug resistance,' the expert said. 

Too much malaria treatment is conducted outside the government programs, the expert said. Private pharmacists and doctors sometimes give the wrong medicine or dosage to patients who believe they have malaria. If the proper dosage isn't given, the malaria type eventually becomes resistant to the medicine. 

If the research shows that one of the treatments is more effective, and cost effective, the plan [provides] the best option available,' the expert said. 

The malaria parasite also has a complicated genetic structure, which makes it difficult to find a vaccine, the expert said. So the National Malaria Center will continue to develop drugs for treatment. 

Prevention is also critical, he said. Bed nets for stationary populations and hammock nets for people who move into forested, malarial areas continue to be the best way to prevent malaria. The center plans to expand its educational efforts as well, he said, using television, radio and T-shirts to instruct people on how to properly recognize symptoms of malaria. Literature will also be distributed for use in rural schools, he said. 

The center also plans to continue extensive research projects, including testing mosquitoes to find out if they are resistant to insecticides used on mosquito nets. Expanded clinical and managerial training are also called for in the new plan, he said.