Frontline: A better way to beat malaria

For centuries, the drug quinine has been used to treat malaria. It’s been the main weapon in the battle against the disease, which is carried by mosquitoes, and kills close to one million people every year.

The vast majority of the victims are children in Africa; and they die after the disease progresses to a severe form of malaria where their internal organs come under attack. At the moment, the treatment these children receive is quinine.

But now, there’s a new drug that has been proven in clinical trials to be a major improvement on quinine. It’s called artesunate. And not only is it more effective but the new medication is also far simpler and safer to administer than quinine in the often remote places where malaria causes the greatest toll. Most importantly, artesunate could save 200,000 lives per year.

The World Health Organization has just revised its guidelines calling for artesunate as the treatment of choice for children with severe malaria, and MSF is already starting to make the switch. But to make a revolutionary change and save hundreds of thousands more young lives across the continent, the countries where the disease is endemic also need to make the move from quinine to artesunate in their national treatment guidelines. And that won’t happen without the support of the international community.