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Dr. Mabvuto Kanjo

Changing the malaria treatment guidelines in Zambia

“I started as a medical doctor in the Dola belt of Zambia, then I moved onto Kwaba general hospital which is in the central province. After working as a doctor, I returned to school for my graduate degree and that’s when I became interested in malaria control. I came to understand there’s a broader way that one can help fight malaria and improve public health.

Today I work for the Ministry of Health in Zambia as a Case Management Specialist, and I have been recently working on the new malaria treatment guidelines so that we can replace older drugs that have become resistant to malaria with more effective treatments.

In Zambia, malaria is the number one cause of death. 20% of all maternal deaths in Zambia are due to malaria. And unfortunately the species of malaria that infects people in our country causes complications and death as compared to malaria species found elsewhere. If malaria is not diagnosed or treated properly in time, the results can be disastrous. For example, malaria is one of the biggest causes of anemia.

For several decades, we treated malaria with chloroquine, a monotherapy. But toward the year 2000, chloroquine started to become resistant and was no longer working for patients. We eventually changed the treatment to the Novartis antimalarial, an effective artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). It is currently used as a first-line treatment in all health districts in Zambia, and is free in the public sector. With a holistic approach including prevention and treatment, there’s a high potential to eliminate the disease in Zambia, but we need continued attention on the disease.”