National Malaria Center Sets Priorities for Next Five Years
|Sept 20, 2001
By Brian Calvert
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
'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
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.