On Malaria in Africa
April 25th was designated as world malaria day by President George W. Bush. He called on all Americans to come together to help eradicate malaria in the African continent. Although malaria is a major problem in Africa, what lacked in President Bush’s proclamation is the fact that he did not call on Africans to join in on the same cause. While I commend the former president for his philanthropic efforts to bring awareness of malaria epidemic to the world, he forgot to include Africans in his statement. Malaria is not only a global problem, but more so an African problem.
Not quite sure if the problem has been made worse by Africans themselves or the introduction on the so called aid that has retarded the minds of innovative Africans to come up with their own strategies to combat this problem. The bottom line is that African nations need take the lead make collaborative efforts to lay out proper strategies on how to fight the disease and participate fully in the control malaria; in areas such as R&D in drug delivery systems, innovations in managerial and funding system and encouraging public-private partnerships.
Although, malaria and other parasitic diseases impose a substantial burden of mortality and morbidity around the globe, the rate of new drug delivery and development to control malaria is very low as compared to other segments, mainly due to the lack of economic incentives in this area. There is a need for collaborative research efforts between the African nations where the problem is prevalent and the western nations to engage in research and development efforts to effectively manage the existing drugs by modulating their discovery.
The most effective and commonly used antimalaria drug is Artemisinin, also known by the Chinese name Quinghaosu. Artemesinin has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of fevers for more than 2000 years. It is extracted from Artemisia annua L.plant and is present in 0.01 to 0.8% weight of the dry leaves.
This substance is highly effective against the multidrug resistant strains of the Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax malarial parasites. Artemisinin formulations are usually administrated to adults and children in tablets or in liquid dosage forms. On the other hand, artemisinin is absorbed rapidly and the elimination is fast thus limiting its use and efficiency. It is chemically unstable and poorly soluble in water or oil, therefore posing formulation difficulties. Because of these problems, researchers are presently trying to find new and more efficient administration forms for this drug, using polymeric controlled drug release systems.
Drug delivery systems for parasitic infections are expected to be:
- versatile enough to permit delivery of combination of anti-parasitic agent, and
- have to ability to selectively transport the anti-parasitic agent to the parasite to render maximum efficacy with minimum adverse effects.
People of African nations should pioneer the lead in such R&D efforts, and take the burden of combating malaria from funding institutions and philanthropic efforts. Such efforts will not only produce innovative ideas, but also contribute to the reverse of brain drain as capable scientists and professionals strive to move back to their home countries to participate in such research efforts.
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