Malaria develops resistance to recommended drug in Kagera

Thursday May 19 2022
Malaria kagera

Malaria is still a major health concern in Tanzania and other sub-Saharan African countries. PHOTO | FILE

By Hellen Nachilongo

Dar es Salaam. Malaria prevalence rates remain high in Tanzania, a new study has shown, revealing that government’s recommended medication for treatment of the disease has developed some resistance in Kagera Region.

Tanzania moved to Artemether -- Lumefantine Oral (AL) – popularly known in Kiswahili as Mseto – as the recommended medication for malaria in 2006.

By moving to AL, the country was doing away with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) in 2006 which was also adopted after moving away from chloroquine in 2001.

The explanation then was that malarial parasites had become resistant to medication, largely due to overuse of antimalarial drugs for prophylaxis, inadequate or incomplete therapeutic treatments of active infections, a high level of parasite adaptability at the genetic and metabolic levels, and a massive proliferation rate that lets selected populations to emerge relatively rapidly.

But almost 15 years since the adoption of Mseto, two years of research by experts has established that the malaria parasite was once again developing resistance to the current recommended medication.

The findings are contained in a three-year project study that is being conduct by the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in collaboration with National Malaria Control Programme and President’s Office--Regional Administration and Local Government (PORLAG).

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Within two years of the three-year research, findings indicate that 383 people who were tested for malaria parasites, 30 were found to be resistant to antimicrobial in Kagera Region, it was revealed in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

The regions covered in the study and where malaria prevalence rate was discovered to be high include Kagera, Kigoma and Mara, while Ruvuma, Tabora, Mtwara, Songwe and Dar es Salaam had low rate of malaria prevalence.

NIMR Chief Research Scientist Deus Ishengoma said Mseto medication was good for treating malaria but there were signs of danger especially in Kagera Region.

“Of those found to be resistant to antimicrobial, 20 were in Karagwe, nine were in Kyerwa while one was in Ngara,” he said in his paper titled ‘Malaria Molecular Surveillance in Tanzania (MMST)’, which was presented at the 31st Scientific Conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

NIMR director general Yunus Mgaya said the study findings were the fruits of a genomic that was established through support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Meanwhile, in an effort to find a lasting solution to malaria, a key laboratory is to be launched in Dar es Salaam today (May 19, 2022).

Health minister Ummy Mwalimu will launch the laboratory under the project dubbed ‘Molecular Surveillance of Malaria in Tanzania’ and which is also funded by BMGF.

“This project is jointly implemented by NIMR and the National Malaria Control Programme,” said Prof Mgaya.

According to him, the main objective of the lab was to build the capacity of Malaria Molecular Surveillance (MMS) in Tanzania and apply genomic methods to support current Malaria surveillance and elimination initiatives. He said the application of these methods for malaria surveillance will support the ongoing initiatives towards elimination of the disease by 2030 as well as controlling other infectious diseases.

The BMGF’s senior programme officer for malaria, Ms Estee Torok said their role was to support NIMR and invest in the project to establish was malaria Molecular surveillance in Tanzania. “We have been providing a catalyst investment to establish surveillance in Tanzaniaand therefore I urge the government to support such initiative,” she said.

“A researcher should ensure that findings generated during the study must be disseminated to enable stakeholders to see the malaria surveillance and find ways to support the government to curb malaria challenges in Tanzania,” she said.

She noted they have invested in NIMR for three and half years and the project is now two years and they hope by the end of the project they establish and achieve malaria molecular in Tanzania.