Yesterday, the world’s largest malaria conference, The 5th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) Pan-African Conference, opened with a call for substantial and sustained support for research to guide evidence-based policies and the development of new malaria tools, which together could save countless lives. Watch this interview video with Dr. Rose Leke, University of Yaounde 1, Cameroon, where she discusses the dangers of malaria during pregnancy — and how to prevent it.
Pregnant women are the most vulnerable adult population to malaria. Pregnancy decreases the level of immunity that most adult women in high-transmission areas develop. The CDC estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa malaria causes some 400,000 cases of severe maternal anemia a year leading to roughly 10,000 deaths and from 75-200,000 infant deaths a year.
For these reasons, pregnant women have been designated a high-priority population by Roll-Back Malaria. The WHO suggests a two-pronged approach to protect pregnant women in Africa: provide bed nets and intermittent preventive treatment (IPT). Bed nets have been widely acknowledged as the most effective form of prevention currently available, and IPT involves giving mothers preventive treatment with an anti-malaria drug. It has shown to cause 23% fewer low birth-weight babies. These technologies are available and relatively cheap, but there are still large barriers to universal access.