African island to eliminate malaria with With China’s medical expertise

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Sao Tome and Principe, an island country off the west coast of Africa, is on its way to eliminating malaria with the help of Chinese doctors and medicine

 Sao Tome and Principe, an island country off the west coast of Africa, is on its way to eliminating malaria with the help of Chinese doctors and medicine.

The island country, home to over 200,000 people, has been seriously affected by malaria. It reported 2,000 cases in 2020.

The country is striving to eradicate the disease by 2025. “We still need to work hard to meet this goal, considering the tropical and humid weather here,” Guo Wenfeng, chief advisor of China’s expert team to the African island, told Xinhua.

Since March, Guo and his team have been in and out of the villages of the Agua-Grande district to conduct a mass treatment campaign against malaria, where a worrisome upward trend of malaria caseload has been reported.

The team, from the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, has the trick up its sleeve — Artequick, a Chinese-developed drug made of artemisinin, piperaquine and a small dose of primaquine.

Its main ingredient Artemisinin, now at the forefront of the world’s battle against malaria, was discovered by renowned Chinese scientist and Nobel Prize laureate Tu Youyou from artemisia annua.

“Artemisinin has a swift effect against malaria parasites, while piperaquine has a longer-lasting effect, which makes the parasites less likely to build drug resistance,” Guo said.

Besides fumigating households and handing out insecticide-treated bed nets, the Chinese team has come up with a strategy of mass drug administration (MDA), whereby residents simultaneously took Artequick to flush out the malaria parasites, a groundbreaking strategy that proves to be effective in Comoros and other African countries.

In the following years, with the efforts of the Chinese team, malaria incidence has dropped from 60 percent to 3 percent in the towns near the capital Sao Tome under the MDA pilot project.

In the town of Liberdade, which used to be one of the regions worst hit by the disease, not a single case had been reported for eight consecutive months since the MDA strategy was piloted in July 2019.

Liberdade, a town of 500 residents, once reported 1,000 malaria cases in a single year, recalled Guo, who now is on his third mission to the island. “Numbers donnot lie. Locals’ approval shows us that our strategy works.”

“We, the local population, want to collaborate with this Chinese team to fight malaria because we want to end this disease here in Liberdade and consequently in Sao Tome and Principe,” said Vasco Guiva, a local resident.

The MDA strategy “is undoubtedly a preventive action that consists of administering medicines en masse to the entire population”, said the Sao Tome Health Minister Filomena Monteiro in March.

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The Chinese solution “undoubtedly helps in pursuing the country’s goal of achieving the elimination of malaria in 2025,” said Monteiro, while commending China’s support in this arduous task.

For Guo and his team, the story still unfolds as the Chinese expert team will continue to fight alongside with the African island till the very end.

China was officially declared malaria-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) last year.

“Last year, the WHO granted China a malaria-free certification. Many people on the island are still inspired by the news. It is our duty to help them get rid of the disease,” said Guo.