As the oldest and first institution in the world dedicated to research and teaching in the field of tropical medicine, researchers at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and colleagues of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kenya Research Institution have found a new drug that could be more effective in preventing malaria in pregnant women, especially where there is resistance to existing treatments.

As a registered charity, LSTM works across the globe, often in very difficult circumstances, to fulfill their mission of reducing the burden of sickness and mortality in disease endemic countries.

Although malaria used to be much more widespread issue than it is today, understanding and controlling malaria is a very important concern to the organization. Governments, in partnership with local communities and community-based organizations, strive to work together towards achieving global eradication to save millions of lives from the deadly disease. With programs such as the J.C. Flowers & Co.’s NetsForLife initiative, Buy-a-Net, and other malaria prevention programs, many areas in Africa are supported for prevention and help.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women in areas of steady malaria transmission receive recurrent preventative treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) with the antimalarial drug sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP). It’s recommended that SP should be given at each scheduled antenatal clinic visit (excluding the first trimester).

Professor Feiko ter Kulie, who manages the Malaria in Pregnancy (MiP) Consortium at LSTM, published a study in the journal The Lancet in September. The study evaluated the effectiveness and safety of two alternative strategies compared to the standard treatment recommended for the prevention of malaria in 1,546 HIV-negative pregnant women in western Kenya.

Scientists found that deployment of DHP for malaria in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy is connected to a significant decrease in adverse maternal and infant outcomes.

“Malaria in pregnant women is a serious public health problem, and in areas of high resistance to SP it is clear that an alternative treatment is needed. Our study showed that test and treat approaches are not a suitable alternative, at least not with the current generation of rapid diagnostic tests which still miss many infections; however, it is a positive sign that prevention with the new drug dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine fared well in the study and could be a promising alternative to SP following further investigation,” said Feiko ter Kuile.