WHO: Universal testing/new guidelines for malaria treatment

WHO released new guidelines for the treatment of malaria, and “the first ever guidance on procuring safe and efficacious anti-malarial medicines.” The Guidelines for the Treatment of Malaria (second edition) provide “evidence-based and current recommendations for countries on malaria diagnosis and treatment.” The main changes from the first edition of the guidelines (published in 2006) are the emphasis on testing before treating and the addition of a new ACT to the list of recommended treatments.

Dr Robert Newman, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme (GMP), commented

“The world now has the means to rapidly diagnose malaria and treat it effectively. WHO now recommends diagnostic testing in all cases of suspected malaria. Treatment based on clinical symptoms alone should be reserved for settings where diagnostic tests are not available.”

WHO said the move towards universal diagnostic testing of malaria “is a critical step forward in the fight against malaria as it will allow for the targeted use of ACTs for those who actually have malaria. The aim is to reduce the emergence and spread of drug resistance and to help identify patients who have fever, but do not have malaria, so that alternative diagnoses can be made and appropriate treatment provided. Therefore, better management of malaria has a positive impact on management of other childhood illness and overall child survival.”

WHO estimates that 80 countries have adopted ACTs for first-line treatment of uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria. In the guidelines, WHO emphasizes the importance of treating this deadliest form of the disease with artemisinin-based combination therapies. WHO has now added a fifth ACT – dihydroartemisinin plus piperaquine – to the previous list of recommended medicines. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2010/malaria_20100308/en/index.html

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