Malaria is commonly diagnosed on a basis of clinical symptoms alone, such as fever and headaches. Around half the people who present with fever and are treated for malaria in Africa may not actually be infected with the parasite. An accurate diagnosis can be made through a count of parasites by microscope or a rapid dipstick test. Both methods are used by MSF in its projects.
Anti-malarial drugs are used to treat the illness. Chloroquine was once the ideal treatment for malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum because of its price, effectiveness and few side-effects; however, its effectiveness has decreased dramatically in the past few decades. MSF field research has helped prove that artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) is currently the most effective against this type of malaria and has urged governments in Africa to change their drug protocols to use ACT. Although many governments have officially made the change, in many cases the drug is still not available to their people.
MSF treated more than 1.17 million people for malaria in 2008.