Malaria Prevention and Treatment
According to the World Health Organization, malaria is a “life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes.” A preventable and curable disease, Malaria has been eradicated from most developed countries. Instead, the debilitating disease occurs mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia, and South America. Malaria is caused by parasites passing through the blood stream. Through multiplying within the bloodstream, these parasites release merozoites and free hemoglobin into the body, causing symptoms such as anemia, bloody stool, chills, coma, convulsion, fever, headache, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, sweating, and vomiting. Given the debilitating effects and inadequacy of preventative measures of malaria, the disease has been attributed to cost upwards of $12 billionin GDP losses annually. Although malaria poses itself as a bigger problem for people living within affected regions, people living in developed regions are also affected by the disease during their travels. This article will present information on current trends in malaria prevention and treatment for people living in a variety of temperaments.
Malaria prevention occurs in two main ways. First, prevention is done through vector control, or the limitation of exposure to insects which transmit the disease. Common ways of malaria vector control are the usage of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying of insecticides. Given the relatively low cost of these methods compared to prevention through medicine, these have proven to be the most effective methods of malaria prevention in developing areas (where unfortunately malaria affects the most people). The use of mosquito nets has been shown to “reduce all-cause mortality in children under 5 by about 20 percent and malarial illnesses among children under 5 and pregnant women by up to 50 percent.” Indoor residual spraying has also been proven to be a reliable prevention method. However, due to the poor living situations that many developing areas have, holes in mosquito nets, lack of physical doors, and poorly-constructed roofs reduce the effectiveness of the sprays. Malaria can also be prevented through taking preventative medicine. Typically reserved for travelers and tourists due to their relatively-high costs, there are several different types of medicine with varying costs and levels of effectiveness options available today. According to the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, effective prescriptions are:
- Atovaquone/Proguanil (Malarone)
In addition to having differing costs and varying frequencies of consumption, these prescription options have varying effectiveness in regions due to resistances built up by parasites. A comprehensive chart on the effectiveness of prevention medicine in different regions can be found here.
Company Spotlight: Acumen Fund
Acumen Fund, a socially-driven venture capital, is an organization started in 2001 by Jacqueline Novogratz. Formulating an investment methodology known as “patient capital”, Acumen Fund seeks to leverage capital in long-term investments to maximize social returns instead of financial ones. Currently, Acumen Fund is engaged in two projects focused on malaria prevention.
- A to Z Textile Mills is an African-based mosquito net maker. With the help from Acumen Fund investments (totalling around $1 million in debt/grants), A to Z has produced 29 million mosquito nets every year. These nets, which are treated with insecticide, last for five years and cost between $5-$7 to produce, allowing the company to sell their product in an affordable manner. Not only has this greatly improved the availability of mosquito nets in the continent of Africa, it has also developed a sustainable supply chain, employing over 7,000 people in its operations.
- DART produces insecticide-treated wall lining which is a long-term alternative to traditional indoor spraying methods. Unlike indoor spraying, which must be repeated every 3-6 months, DART’s spray lasts for at least three years. Field trials conducted in 10 Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America countries have been completed with funding from Acumen Fund ($250,000 in equity), and DART is planning to begin commercial sales in 2011.
If prevention methods are ineffective or unavailable, malaria can also be treated through medication. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common types of malaria treatment drugs are:
- Chloroquine (Aralen)
- Quinine sulfate (Qualaquin)
- Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
- Combination of atovaquone and proguanil (Malarone)
These drugs vary in effectiveness and cost, depending on region and type of malaria. Due to the cat-and-mouse process struggle between antimalarial treatments and the buildup of resistances from malaria strains, it is commonly suggested to use multiple treatments in order to prevent the full resistance to a type of treatment. Although minor cases of malaria can be treated through the administering of pills, severe cases require parenteral treatment (application of medicine directly to the bloodstream), as the malaria parasite is transported throughout the blood stream. The issue of malaria treatment and prevention is a complicated process not only involving medicinal development but also socioeconomic issues. Although there are a plethora of options available for the prevention and treatment of the disease, areas most affected by the disease are often ones without a ready supply. Companies such as Acumen Fund have noticed the link between social, economic, medicinal, and financial forces, and has shifted the focus to incorporate a more holistic view of the situation. Moving forward, malaria treatment must focus on not only emphasizing pharmaceutical development of treatment methods, but also the systems in which these methods are distributed.