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New: Malaria and Malnutrition Study Group

12 May 2015

WWARN’s new ACT Malaria and Malnutrition Study Group is investigating the association between malnutrition in young children and the efficacy of antimalarial treatments. Find out how you can get involved.

In regions endemic for malaria, malaria and malnutrition are unavoidably intertwined with as malaria disproportionately affects children in families that are poor and experience malnourishment. This is particularly the case in the Sahel region; malnourishment is most prevalent before the single annual harvest, and this coincides with the rainy season when the number of malaria infections rises dramatically. 

The coincidence of these two situations exacerbate both conditions. Malnourished children have weakened immune systems, so their bodies are less able to fight diseases such as malaria, while children sick with malaria are more likely to become dangerously malnourished.  Even worse, severely malnourished children can have a high number of parasites in their blood but still not present the classic signs of malaria.

However, with this knowledge, the relationship between malnutrition and the efficacy of malaria treatments is still not clearly understood. WWARN has initiated a new Study Group to investigate the link between malnutrition and antimalarial drug efficacy.  The collaborative group, known as the ACT Malaria and Malnutrition Study Group, will assess the effect of various nutritional indicators in the treatment outcome of children aged 6-59 months treated with artemisinin based combination therapies.

Malaria and malnutrition is a deadly combination. Young children suffer disproportionately from food shortage and this malnutrition substantially increases their risk of poor drug absorption, low immune response,” says Prof Philippe Guérin, Director of WWARN. “Our study group will explore this interaction to determine how to optimise and improve malaria treatments for malnourished children or those at risk of malnourishment.

The Study Group will examine  the effect  of malnutrition  on malaria patients taking one of four artemisinin combination therapy treatments; artemether-lumefantrine (AL), artesunate-amodiaquine (AS-AQ), dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP) and artesunate-mefloquine (AS-MQ).

The group will pool quality-assured individual patient data from across the world on each of these malaria treatments to understand the effect malnutrition has on parasite numbers in the blood before treatment, and then again after treatment.

We are now looking for researchers to join in our Study Group and share their data and expertise. Together we can tackle this problem,” adds Prof Karen Barnes, Head of the WWARN Pharmacology Group.

Find out more about the analysis and governance proposal and how to join this group. For further information, email Professor Philippe Guérin philippe [dot] guerin [at] wwarn [dot] org

Did you know? WWARN Study Groups have published three research papers on the impact of antimalarial dosing of different ACTs in different populations: