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Last Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006, 23:17 GMT 00:17 UK
Hopes over new malaria treatment
Mosquito
The malaria parasite is spread by mosquitoes
British scientists have helped to develop a new malaria treatment which they hope could save many thousands of young lives in Africa.

Imperial College in London collaborated with experts in Kenya to develop a technique based on fluid replacement for children ill with malaria.

They estimate it could save the lives of 80% of the million African children who die each year due to malaria.

In one trial of 88 children with malaria, 98% survived after treatment.

Fluid fears

The treatment was developed in an eight-year collaborative study between the London college and the Wellcome Trust Kenya Medical Research Institute Centre, and is featured in the journal PLOS Clinical Trials.

Using intensive care methods usually only available on paediatric intensive care units in developed countries, they showed that fluid depletion was key to the development of severe symptoms among Kenyan children with malaria.

In the past children with severe malaria have been denied additional fluids for fear they might exacerbate brain swelling associated with the disease.

The new treatment avoids this problem by including albumin - a molecule which holds water inside blood vessels - in resuscitation fluids given to children.

It is absolutely essential that the results are reproduced in larger studies before we advise on any change in practice
Dr Kathryn Maitland

In two preliminary studies less than 5% of children who received albumin died - compared to up to 40% who die after receiving conventional treatments.

And in a new trial of 88 children, just 2% of children receiving albumin died, compared to 16% receiving a cheaper synthetic solution.

Researcher Dr Kathryn Maitland said: "The observation that treating very sick children with severe malaria with albumin infusion can reduce the mortality rate by over 80%, represents a major breakthrough towards improved treatment of this devastating illness.

"However, administration of fluid to children critically ill with malaria is contrary to prevailing practice, and albumin is currently not available in most African hospitals.

"It is absolutely essential that the results are reproduced in larger studies before we advise on any change in practice."

Dr Maitland said her team was now seeking funding for a larger trial involving over 1,000 children in Ghana, Gambia and Kenya.

Professor Brian Greenwood, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, agreed that there was still much confusion about whether or not to give children with malaria fluids.

He said: "The numbers in the trial are small, but this is an encouraging result which certainly should be followed up."


SEE ALSO
Hopes for cheaper malaria drug
12 Apr 06 |  Health
Malaria
08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes

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