Malaria Prevention and Progress

How advancements in malaria diagnosis and treatment, on an individual and global scale, help control the Malaria burden.

Diagnostics | Apr. 24, 2023

The power of an informed decision cannot be understated, especially in matters pertaining to our health. It allows us to plan ahead, plan well and create better health outcomes. From facilitating crucial early diagnosis and thereby timely treatment to more seamless management tools, innovations in healthcare are revolutionizing how we detect, treat and manage illnesses… in an informed manner. The benefits of early diagnosis are well known and proven for diseases like cancer and cardiac disease, but also are proving to be invaluable to other diseases with high incidence rates like malaria, that literally affects millions of people every year. In fact, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 240 million people from across 84 countries, were affected by malaria in 2021 alone. Additionally, quality and speed of diagnosis is the key in the prevention of any illness.

With symptoms and effects ranging from mild to extremely severe, the mosquito-borne malaria disease can be life-threatening when left untreated. Fortunately, innovations in medicine and health tech have been instrumental in making immense headway in the fight against this public health challenge over the years. While we may still have ways to go, game- changing advancements and improved accessibility in diagnostic and testing capabilities as well as treatment options, are helping countries on their journeys to potentially eliminate malaria for good!

The basics
What causes malaria?
Primarily found in tropical and subtropical countries, malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite passed through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Malaria does not spread from person to person directly, but when the mosquito bites and draws blood from an already infected person it can spread it to the next person it feeds on. The parasite enters the bloodstream, affects the red blood cells and moves on further to the liver. While symptoms are usually noticeable within ten to fifteen days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, it can sometimes take up to weeks to develop. In some cases, the parasite can also remain dormant for a few months to a year.


Rapid self-testing to safely navigate the festive season

Why matters like malaria diagnosis and treatment, matter…

Signs and symptoms of malaria may include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle ache
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Quickened breathing
  • Nausea
  • Elevated heart rate

In severe cases, malaria can also lead to anemia, respiratory distress and organ failure.

It’s heartening to remember that malaria is a curable disease; so testing should be done without delay for the best results!

Early detection for eventual eradication

Mosquitoes aren’t the only ones creating a ‘buzz’; progress in health technology has been too! The good news about malaria is that it is a treatable disease. The great news is that improvements in diagnostics and rapid testing are making early detection a reality and helping people receive timely treatment – even more critical for people at higher risk like pregnant women, infants and those with weakened immune systems.

Rapid tests for malaria, some even providing results within 15-20 minutes, offer an effective and accurate alternative to microscopy-based diagnosis which may not always be easily available. Enhanced diagnostic capabilities, help not only with early detection and thereby faster treatment, but also in providing data about patterns and incidence of the disease. This data can provide the insight needed by government bodies and health organizations to better plan for and hone in on sustainable disease control strategies. Detection precedes intervention, and healthcare innovations like rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are enabling communities to facilitate healthier outcomes for all, sooner and more effectively.

Wide-spread testing, coupled with better access to treatment and prevention services have the potential to make a marked difference in controlling the burden of malaria. For instance, despite being considered a high endemic country, with the fourth highest malaria burden in the world, consolidated efforts in India helped reduce malaria-related deaths by 41% and annual incidence by 24%, between 2017 and 2018.

Prevention for better protection

While national and global level initiatives are underway to curb and eventually eliminate malaria, there are certain preventive measures you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safer. Routine immunization through vaccination has been recommended for children living in high transmission areas by the World Health Organization (WHO) –  especially since children under the age of 5 are more susceptible to developing severe malaria.

Precautionary measures like anti-malarial medication and other preventive therapies (under the guidance of your doctor) are available, for protection when traveling to areas with moderate to high incidence levels of malaria or if one hasn’t been exposed to the disease before. Shielding yourself from mosquito bites with covered clothing, applying mosquito repellent on skin and clothing and using insecticide-treated mosquito nets for beds, is also recommended. Malaria can sometimes have an extensive incubation period, always check with your healthcare providers if you are feeling unwell or are experiencing potential signs and symptoms of malaria after traveling too. Since malaria is often endemic to places that may have limited healthcare access, innovations like RDTs help bridge the gap for detection and timely treatment.

World Malaria Day, held on 25th of April every year, serves as a reminder of the progress made by  governmental initiatives and public and private organizations, who work tirelessly towards curbing the spread of diseases like malaria, by spreading awareness, hope and evidence-based healthcare instead. Innovations in healthcare and health technology – like vaccines, treatment therapies and rapid testing for malaria diagnosis and treatment –  provide further impetus and support, helping us create road-maps for better health… and a better future. 

Disclaimer: The information mentioned in this document is only suggestive for patient education and shall not be considered as a substitute for doctor’s advice or recommendations from Abbott. Please consult your doctor for more information.