Now, ACT to be new anti-malarial drug

With 1.67 million cases of malaria and around 1,000 deaths last year, the government has changed the drug policy and directed states from January this year to introduce the ACT (artesunate and sulpha pyrimethamine) combination as the first line of anti-malarial drug treatment in chloroquine-resistant areas. Dr G S Sonal, Joint Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVDCP), told The Indian Express that there has been concern over the increasing number of plasmodium falciparum (PF) cases of malaria. India contributes to 77 per cent cases of malaria in South East Asia. PF in the 70s amounted to less than 15 per cent of the malaria cases, but this has now gone up to 50 per cent of the total malaria cases. Moreover the dangerous PF has developed resistance to chloroquine in various parts of the country. Sixty-five per cent of cases of malaria in various pockets of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal are due to PF and drug resistance to chloroquine is high here. Chloroquine however is useful in states like Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. At least one million ACT course drugs will be supplied to the high endemic states. So far the government had supplied 20 crore tablets of chloroquine in the country. This quantum of drugs will be slightly reduced, Sonal said. According to Dr A P Dash, Director, National Institute of Malaria Research (NIMR), the PF species of malaria is spreading wider due to migration of population from endemic to non-endemic areas and drug sensitivity studies from various states have observed that there is resistance to the drug chloroquine - which is being used as the first line of treatment for malaria cases. The last time the policy was revised was in 2003. Vaccine for malaria Two sites have been selected for trial of a vaccine against malaria. Epidemiological and immunological data will be collected from the sites selected in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh to test the vaccine. The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Delhi, has developed the vaccine and will be tested at these two sites, Director, National Institute of Malaria Research Dr A P Dash said.