Professor Johnson Nyarko Boampong, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) has advocated a robust and sustained international and domestic financing modules with coordinated collaboration and governments’ commitment to curb malaria invasion and treatment failures.
Prof Boampong who is also a Pharmacist and a Biomedical Scientist gave the advice while delivering his inaugural lecture at UCC on the theme: “Malaria treatment failures: What can we do?”.
His research interest covered multidisciplinary areas including parasitic diseases, drug resistant parasites, drug discovery and targeted drug delivery.
He has more than 60 scholarly publications in peer reviewed journals to his credit.
The lecture sought to provide an overview of malaria as an ancient disease to generate discussion on how the parasites survived despite all intervention strategies to eliminate them but rather remained the ‘ruling champions’.
He presented his research works on understanding the parasite and efforts being made to identify new lead compounds that could be used as either single drug or in combination with other lead compounds for clinical trials, should there be the need for introduction of new antimalarial drugs to replace ACTs.
Prof Boampong highlighted his contributions to training of young scientists and the creation of laboratories, and indicated that malaria treatment failure due to chloroquine resistance, was reported in 1965 and the falciparum malaria resistance strain reported in 1986.
Thereafter, he said reduced clearance of falciparum was continuously reported until 2004 when the Artemisinin- based Combination Therapy (ACT) was introduced to replace chloroquine as the first line treatment for uncomplicated malaria.
The falciparum resistance to artemisinin (ART) derivative, according to him, had now swept across South-East Asia but cautioned: “ACT are available but we are not aware of any alternative that are likely to be registered soon.”
“Now the question is: what can we do to prevent malaria treatment failure?”
Giving an overview of malaria and its evolution in Africa, he described it as an ancient devastating disease caused by a protozoan parasites in the zoological family of plasmodiidae and the genus of plasmodium.
He said human malaria parasites have an elaborate life cycle with distinctive stages that had adapted to survive in both invertebrate vector and vertebrate (human).
He said although the disease was preventable and treatable, malaria continued to pose public health problems in tropical and subtropical regions of the world despite stakeholders’ efforts to eradicate or roll back the disease.
However, the WHO has reported that about 3.2 billion people were at risk of malaria in 85 countries, while 241 million cases occurred with 627,000 deaths and 80 per cent of the deaths were largely children under five years.
To surmount treatment failures, he stressed the collective need for global, continental, regional and national levels to ensure access to health facilities for prompt diagnosis and treatment and effective vector control, whilst supporting research to provide surveillance and to find an effective vaccine or new lead compounds.
“Efforts are being made by our research team to understand the biology and behaviour of malaria parasites particularly P. falciparum. It has been demonstrated that chemical agents could be used to alter the erythrocyte shape to prevent invasion of the parasites.
“This has been confirmed in our field studies that people with thalassemic red blood cells have a relatively reduced malaria infection. Other field studies have also shown a high prevalence of chloroquine resistant mutants in the population even after the use of chloroquine has been prescribed,” Prof Boampong said.
He also reported that five popular antimalarial herbal preparations that were analyzed and tested, showed chemo-suppressive active against plasmodium berghei, a rodent malaria parasite in vivo.
Nevertheless, international addition of chloroquine to these herbal preparations to enhance their effectiveness had serious public health concerns, as it may induce gross resistance to amodiaquine, one of the partner drugs in the recommended ACT for Ghana.