French Ambassador unveils research findings on placental malaria

Francois Pujolas – French Ambassador to Ghana

Mr Francois Pujolas, France Ambassador to Ghana has unveiled research findings on placental malaria, dubbed: “Intermittent Preventive Treatment of Malaria in Pregnancy: Evaluating the new strategy in Ghana”.

The study, which was conducted from 2015 to 2016, was carried out by the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) and the School of Public Health (SPH) both of the University of Ghana (UG), the French Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) and the Maamobi General Hospital; with the support of the French Embassy (Initiative five per cent Programme).

The first phase of the study (€268,000) concentrated on urban populations and involved a sample of 2,000 women.

The objective of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the mechanism for preventing placental malaria in line with recommendations made by the World Health Organization (WHO) on preventive chemotherapy against malaria during pregnancy.

Malaria during pregnancy is a common cause of maternal anaemia, abortions and intrauterine growth retardation the latter being one of the most frequent risk factors for infant mortality. 

Every year, nearly 125 million pregnant women around the world face this threat.

Ghana is one of the first countries to carry out the first phase experiments on a sample of 2000 women on the pilot sites of Maamobi and Kpone and the Kpone Katamanso District hospitals. 

Ghana is also one of many countries benefitting from the “five per cent initiative” that was launched by France at the end of 2011, as an indirect contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. 

The five per cent initiative is a programme through which the French government dedicates an amount equivalent to five per cent of its national contribution to the Global Fund to supporting grants that have been disbursed by the Fund (technical expertise, research programme). 

The programme has clear and obvious relevance to maternal and child health, which is one of the priority of the Government.

Mr Pujolas said: “This research project on the treatment of malaria in pregnancy is of the greatest importance”.

He also stated that the project had enabled the establishment of a collaborative network among the IRD, the researchers at the NMIMR, the SPH, health professionals and the policy makers in Ghana. 

He said the project, which was conducted on a sample of 2000 women on the pilot sites of Maamobi and Kpone Katamanso District Hospitals; was of the greatest importance as Malaria continues to represent one of the greatest public health challenges in Ghana, and was recognised as a serious obstacle to economic development. 

The French Ambassador said data generated in the study would also serve as the baseline for future evaluation of the promising vaccine developed by IRD and its partners of Universities of Copenhagen in Denmark and Tübingen in Germany to better control placental malaria.

Professor Isabella Quakyi, Dean, SPH, UG, urged pregnant women to take advice given them during antenatal care very seriously to limit the probability of getting infected with malaria.

She underscored the need for pregnant women to take malaria education serious as efforts were being made to protect pregnant women from malaria, since it created adverse conditions both for the child and the expecting mother.

Prof Quakyi said primigravida (a woman who is pregnant for the first time) had no pre-existing immunity to placental parasites and were highly susceptible.

She noted that in high transmission areas, primigravida gradually develop immunity to placental malaria parasites and were protected in subsequent pregnancies.

She mentioned that the effects of malaria on pregnant women include anaemia, fluid and electrolyte imbalance, circulatory collapse, hepatic failure, abortion and death.

Prof Quakyi noted that malaria was more common in pregnancy compared to the general population.

She said malaria in pregnancy tends to be more atypical in presentation; explaining that this could be due to the hormonal, immunological and hematological changes of pregnancy.

She said with regards to malaria control, all pregnant women should be treated presumptively, whereas, IPTp was currently the most effective approach.

Prof Quakyi said therefore the objective of the study was to highlight an interdisciplinary assessment on the implementation of Intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) in order to determine coverage and adherence, determinants of treatment failures and the beneficial effects of IPTp in Ghana.

Dr Salamatu Attah Nantogman, Acting Medical Superintendent of the Maamobi General Hospital, said evidence-based medicine had become the hall mark of clinical practice.

She was of the belief that Maamobi had a good mix of clients to carry out many more research projects.

She stated that the impact of the collaboration had not only been in getting results, but also there was an increased number of staff trained in sample taking, and enhanced skill of their laboratory staff in blood film preparation and phlebotomy.

Dr Nantogman, who said their doors were opened to further collaborations in research, again pointed out that the intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) intake had improved and their antenatal care services had achieved a one stop shop status by virtue of a laboratory housed in the maternity unit.

Source: GNA

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