Dr Benji Pretorius urges continued focus on the detection and diagnosis of the disease during the Covid19 pandemic.
Dr Pretorius, founder of Erada Technology Alliance, warns that recent progress made in the fight to end malaria will be undone if prevention methods are halted due to the Covid19 outbreak.
His warning comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) urges countries across its Africa region – which has the highest malaria burden – to act swiftly in deploying prevention and treatment tools while cases of Covid19 remain comparatively low.
WHO also warns that, in the worst case scenario of all insecticide-treated net (ITNs) campaigns being suspended, the estimated tally of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 would reach 769 000; a return to mortality levels last experienced 20 years ago.
Having contracted and survived malaria himself, Dr Pretorius has first-hand experience of the need for swift diagnosis and treatment of malaria, in order to save lives in the most at-risk areas.
Dr Pretorius said: “At this time of global uncertainty, we need to ensure that the progress we have made in the fight against malaria is maintained. In 2015, after the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa, cases of malaria increased substantially as prevention programmes were put on hold.
“We cannot allow this to happen again. So I am urging countries with high malaria risk to take heed of WHO’s warning and keep their prevention programmes in place, while also ensuring that those working to implement these programmes have a safe environment to do so.”
WHO has also issued guidelines on tailoring malaria interventions during the Covid19 pandemic, including providing access to rapid diagnostic tests, ITNs, and encouraging early care for individuals displaying symptoms such as fever.
Erada Technology Alliance, in partnership with global stakeholders, is committed to developing a saliva-based rapid diagnostic test for malaria. The test identifies both the Plasmodium parasite in a person’s saliva, and the presence of a protein biomarker it depends on for survival, thereby diagnosing the disease and facilitating early preventative medical intervention before symptoms worsen.
Further details of Erada’s work is available at: https://www.eradatechnology.com/.
WHO’s guidelines on malaria interventions during the Coid19 pandemic are available at: https://www.who.int/malaria/publications/atoz/tailoring-malaria-interventions-covid-19.pdf?ua=1.