WACCBIP and TIBA Ghana engage Ewim community on Malaria prevention, control, and treatment
As part of its activities under the Tackling Infections to Benefit Africa (TIBA) partnership, the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) on Friday, February 23, 2018, visited the Ewim community in the Central Region of Ghana, to discuss malaria prevention, treatment, and control.
TIBA is an Africa-centered, multi-disciplinary research programme that explores and draws lessons from different African health systems and how they tackle infectious diseases. TIBA’s research programme is led by its partners in selected African countries that apply their own perspective to address the continent’s infectious diseases, and to develop better treatments for diseases. In Ghana, the TIBA project will focus on the effects of artemisinin-based anti-malarial treatments on non-falciparum species of the malaria parasite. It will run over a period of 4 years and will be hosted and led by WACCBIP.
Using the visit to the Ewim Community as a launch pad for TIBA Ghana, WACCBIP brought together over 200 people from Ewim to interact with some of its researchers and health workers from the Ewim Polyclinic.
The Ewim Polyclinic records 124 cases of malaria each week, with an estimated 3 children dying every year. Efforts to reduce the number of reported cases have generally been unsuccessful. Speaking at the event, Dr. Abigail Derkyi-Kwateng, Medical Superintendent at the Ewim Polyclinic, said in spite of the periodic distribution of treated mosquito nets to members of the community, high numbers of malaria cases persist because residents fail to sleep under them.
“We give out treated bed nets to members of the community; however, all efforts to make them sleep in the treated bed nets have proved futile. Many complain that the nets are too hot to sleep in,” Dr. Derkyi said. “We hope that WACCBIP’s presence in this community will help in our public education efforts and to improve the diagnosis and surveillance of malaria.”
Prof. Neils Ben Quashie, a member of the TIBA Ghana Local Expert Advisory Board, said that improved malaria diagnosis remains a national priority and that it was important for people to report malaria symptoms to the hospital early for treatment instead of subscribing to herbal methods.
“Parents should desist from the use of charcoal in marking the faces of their children. Instead, children should be taken to the hospital early after seeing symptoms,” Prof. Quashie said. “There are other diseases that present with similar symptoms as malaria and you should not use malaria drugs to treat them, this can be harmful.”
Prof. Gordon Awandare, Director of West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), emphasised the importance of improving diagnostic tools to manage malaria. According to him, developing a vaccine for the disease has been difficult because of the complex nature of the malaria parasite.
“Malaria is a stubborn disease; we have been trying to eradicate it for many years. We don’t have a vaccine for malaria like measles, chicken pox, and yellow fever because the parasite is intelligent and complex,” Prof. Awandare said. “We try to organise events like this to explain to you what we are doing in the laboratory. We are trying to find more methods that are reliable in diagnosing malaria so that it doesn’t persist and kill you.”
He explained that a large part of the research at WACCBIP is focused on gaining a better understanding of the biology of these parasites and detailed efforts to diagnose and differentiate malaria from other diseases with similar symptoms.
“We are looking at other micro-organisms that can cause fever apart from the malaria parasite. We need to find ways of differentiating other diseases from malaria so you can get the right treatment,” he said.
Nana Ankoh, a traditional leader and regent of Ekon in the Cape Coast traditional area, admitted that the high death rate from the disease in the Ewim community was because of a lack of understanding of the disease. He expressed his relief that WACCBIP, through the TIBA project, plans to sensitise the people of his community.
Dr. Yaw Aniweh, a research fellow at WACCBIP and a focal person for the TIBA Ghana project, explained that the prevalence of malaria in the community was due to unhealthy practices, particularly in sanitation management. He encouraged the members of the community to keep their surroundings clean as a way of checking the presence of mosquitoes.
He continued to explain the focus of the TIBA project and how the study of the lesser species of the malaria parasite would be of relevance to the eradication of the disease.
“Our idea is to learn more about Plasmodium falciparum,” Dr. Aniweh said. “Also, other non-falciparum malaria parasites also contribute to the symptoms of malaria. Some of these non-falciparum species are Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium malariae, these can persist in an individual for life.”
He advised members of the community to ensure they take and complete the prescribed medication, which would help efforts to eradicate the disease.
Diana Aggrey, a public health nurse based within the Ewim community, explained that the TIBA project had been implemented at an opportune time, and that the sensitisation component would be beneficial to the community.
“I am happy WACCBIP hosted this event in our community because most people do not know the causes of malaria. Some attribute the cause of malaria to foods eaten,” Miss Aggrey said. “This programme is timely and has educated the community members well on malaria. We hope that this project will help to eradicate the disease.”