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Hope and alarm for World Malaria Day

Monday April 25th, 2011

Growing numbers of British travellers are failing to take tablets to prevent malaria - and then succumbing to the disease, a health watchdog warned today.

The warning was one of several issued today to mark World Malaria Day.

Often people who travel to visit India or West Africa to visit friends or family neglect to take precautions, the UK Health Protection Agency said.

This has led to a 30 per cent increase in cases in the UK in two years. Some 1,760 cases were reported last year compared with 1,370 in 2008.

Visits to Nigeria and Ghana account for 40 per cent of UK cases.

Dr Jane Jones, of the HPA, said: "It is a myth that people who have had malaria will not get it again. Our advice is the same for all travellers - you must take anti-mosquito precautions and medication to keep safe".

She added: "Malaria is a potentially deadly disease but is almost completely preventable. Anyone who is planning to travel to a tropical destination should always seek advice from their GP or travel health clinic before their trip."

Globally malaria is thought to have killed some 781,000 people in 2009 and causes 225 million illnesses. Today marks the beginning of the third year of the Global Malaria Action Plan, which aims for dramatic reductions in cases.

* Nigeria and Ghana are now among countries where cut-price anti-malaria drugs can be found in local shops, a major global agency said.

The Global Fund has enabled the latest drugs to be sold for as little as half a US dollar in these two countries along with Kenya and Madagascar.

The initiative is seeking to make powerful artemisinin-based combination therapies available to millions.

* Researchers are looking forward to the first results of a large-scale African trial of an anti-malaria vaccine called RTS,S. These are due in the next few months, according to the US National Institutes of Health.

And US researchers say a genetically altered fungus could be used to prevent the malaria parasites breeding in mosquitoes.

* Today a study in The Lancet suggests that the older chloroquinine drugs can be used in a different kind of vaccination treatment. Dutch researchers have infected volunteers with malaria at the same time as giving them the preventative drugs.

Three years ago the technique immunised some six volunteers. Recent trials show that four still had immunity after two and a half years.

Researcher Professor Robert Sauerwein, of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, writes: "Our simple immunisation protocol represents a blueprint for induction of sustained antimalarial immunity, providing a new technique for exploring mechanisms of immunity and highlighting new research priorities."

Writing on the same journal British experts call for more research on the technique - warning immunity could prove to be confined to individual strains.

The Lancet April 25 2011

Tags: Africa | Asia | North America | Traveller Health | UK News | World Health

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