Doctors in Senegal are reporting they have developed an effective way of protecting young children against malaria using antibiotics. The strategy has to do with how often the drugs are given to the children during the malaria season.
It is common in Senegal and other countries where malaria is endemic to give young children a small dose of antibiotics every day or week during malaria season to try to keep them from becoming ill.
Most of the one million people who die every year from the mosquito-borne illness are children living in Africa.
But the strategy using drugs as a prevention measure has backfired.
Physician Badara Cisse, who works in rural Senegal, says many children have become resistant to the antibiotics, because of overuse and misuse. He says this happened with a popular drug used to treat malaria.
"That's why we lost chloroquine. And that was very sad for us losing chloroquine, because it was not expensive and it was very effective and not expensive," he noted.
Cisse and colleagues developed a strategy they hoped would protect children, and prevent drug resistance.
In a study published in the February 25 issue of the medical journal, The Lancet, the authors say they gave 1,000 children under five in rural Senegal a full, two-drug combination of antibiotics once a month during malaria season, when the risk of infection and death is high.
Dr. Badara Cisse, one of the study authors, says this regimen worked.
"We reduced the number of clinical episodes of malaria by 86 percent by using such this approach for preventing malaria," he said.
However, Cisse says it will be some time before this prevention method can be put into practice in Senegal or anywhere else. Cisse says a much larger study must now be conducted to confirm that the regimen is effective.