Australian and Papua New Guinean researchers say they have discovered a treatment that completely cures one of the most common strains of malaria worldwide. This could be good news for Bougainville.
Malaria is one of the world’s most prevalent diseases, affecting about 200 million people.
There have been successes and failures trying to combat the disease, but now a group of Australian and Papua New Guinean researchers believe they have developed a treatment that can completely cure one of the most common strains.
By combining two drugs, and giving it to patients over three days, the researchers found the treatment completely eliminated the vivax strain of malaria.
The trial was led by Papua New Guinean medical doctor Moses Laman as part of a PHD he has been undertaking.
The 36-year-old, who was raised in rural Papua New Guinea, knows intimately what it’s like to have malaria
“I’ve even been admitted to hospital as a child for malaria at least twice in rural PNG, and that’s tough,” he said.
The Papua New Guinean researcher said he was excited about what he and his colleagues discovered after two years of field tests in Papua New Guinea.
“It’s satisfying to not only see our work, but all the other malaria research, and the time and effort and planning that malaria has recently attracted globally,” he said.
“The incidence[s] of malaria globally, not just in Papua New Guinea, have been declining so as someone who has come from an endemic setting it’s satisfying to see.”
Although the number of cases may be falling, a child still dies of malaria every minute in Africa according to the World Health Organisation.
Dr Laman and his team trialled their treatment on 250 children over two years in PNG and found they could kill the vivax malaria parasite in the children.
Normally the parasite hides in the liver, re-emerging to attack the host again and again.
But this treatment breaks that cycle.
Vivax malaria is not usually lethal, but it can make a child anaemic and vulnerable to other diseases.
Dr Laman’s study was supervised by veteran malaria researcher Professor Tim Davis from the University of Western Australia’s school of medicine and pharmacology.
Professor Davis said vivax malaria was a devastating disease that affected many of the world’s developing countries.
“Malaria is a disease of poverty and contributes to poverty and it makes it difficult for young children to develop normally if they’re recurrently unwell with infections like malaria,” he said.