Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the prescription drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have been making headlines as potential cures against the deadly virus that has over 2 million cases worldwide.
But chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are off-label uses for COVID-19—that is, they are not originally intended to treat the novel coronavirus. As drugs with anti-viral properties, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are used to treat malaria.
“Zero Malaria Starts With Me”
World Malaria Day, observed every April 25 since 2007 by all member states of the World Health Organization (WHO), seeks to educate and call awareness to the deadly disease that continues to claim hundreds and thousands of lives. This year’s theme is “Zero Malaria Starts With Me,” a pro-active campaign that makes everybody responsible for eradicating the disease.
That other mosquito-borne disease
Malaria is caused by the parasite Plasmodium, transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Plasmodium travels to the liver where it can remain dormant for years. Or it can multiply and when it matures, the parasites leave your liver and infect your red blood cells. This results in fever, chilling, muscle pain, nausea, and vomiting. Complications from malaria (fluid in the lungs, cerebral malaria, organ failure) can lead to coma or death.
Roman soldiers had it, and so did Honest Abe (twice!)
Regarded as an ancient disease, malaria was traced on the teeth and bones of soldiers of the Roman empire. The German poet Friedrich Schiller and English general Oliver Cromwell also had malaria, as did US President Abraham Lincoln—twice! Amazingly, the WHO reports of bones, tortoise shells, and bronzeware from China bearing inscriptions of malaria dating 3,500 years back.
Today, according to the WHO, a whopping 93 percent of malaria cases are from the African region, as are 94 percent of deaths from the disease. Children under 5 years old are particularly vulnerable to malaria; every two minutes, a child loses his life to the disease. As of March 25, 37 countries in the African region are battling malaria as well as COVID-19.
Finally, a vaccine
It was only last year when the Government of Malawi introduced the vaccine RST, S (brand name Mosquirix)—a 30-year-in-the-making solution in four injections given to children up to 2 years old.
For now, sleeping under a mosquito net, wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks, slathering or spraying your skin with mosquito repellent, and clearing your surroundings from stagnant water protect you against mosquitos infected with the Plasmodium parasite.
Hydroxychloroquine tablets are given to adults and children who are traveling to countries where malaria is prevalent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one dose of hydroxychloroquine is prescribed one week before traveling, one dose per week while traveling, and one dose for four consecutive weeks after leaving.