A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted in Uganda found that a new treatment regimen involving two drugs may be able to reduce the severity of drug-resistant malaria during pregnancy.
This new treatment offers an alternative to regions in Africa that have Plasmodium falciparum, which is the parasite that causes malaria. In certain areas, this parasite has developed resistance to malaria treatments. The new regimen includes sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine.
Pregnancy already lowers the immune system’s responses to malaria parasites. If a pregnant woman contracts malaria, there is a higher chance of death for the mother as well as the infant. Even if the mother has strong immunity against the disease, the parasite can still settle in the placenta and leach nutrients from the child. This heightens the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight and infection.
"On average, pregnant women living in the study area endure an estimated 310 bites from malaria-carrying mosquitos each year," Dr. Rohan Hazra, chief of the Maternal and Pediatric Infectious Disease Branch at the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), said. "This drug combination appears to offer a welcome addition to our defenses against this debilitating and life-threatening disease."