Dr Queen Dube, Paediatrician, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi, explains the malaria burden in Malawi and the ideal medicine to treat it.
1. How often do you see children with malaria coming into your clinic?
It varies with the season, but it’s a daily occurrence. During the rainy season, we’re talking about 50 plus kids, mostly under the age of 2, coming through our doors on a daily basis. Once the rains have stopped we could be talking about 30 or thereabouts.
2. What’s the effect of malaria on families and communities?
The effect is huge. When it’s a little one, the mother will be here all the time, maybe leaving other little ones at home. If she was working, she’d have to take some time off. She may end up with a disabled kid. If you have a disabled child in a setting like ours it’s tough. We don’t have support for disabled children. It’s difficult for the family. For simple cases, they get their drug and the family goes back to normal. It’s the severe cases where, at the end of the day, it’s not just this one child but the entire family that suffers.
3. What would be the ideal medicine to treat these children with malaria?
You want something that will clear parasites quickly, something that is palatable. With malaria, we’re talking about children and some of them cannot swallow a tablet. You want something that doesn’t have to be given over 3 days or longer. A single-exposure would be ideal. You give the medicine and you can forget about it. Once you go beyond a day, 2 or 3 days you can’t be sure they will finish the course. In short, you want something that is effective at killing the parasite quickly with very few side-effects, preferably a palatable, single-exposure cure.