Malaria in pregnancy
Malaria remains one of the highest contributors to the precarious maternal mortality figures in sub-Saharan Africa. At least 6 million women worldwide are at risk of malaria infection in pregnancy. Malaria contributes to at least 10,000 maternal deaths and to at least 200,000 newborn deaths annually. Malaria is a contributor or aetiologic factor in pregnancy complications including anaemia, spontaneous abortion, prematurity and stillbirths. Pregnancy results in increased incidence and severity of malaria. Cerebral malaria, acute renal failure and severe anaemia, rare complications in adults living in malaria endemic areas, may complicate malaria in pregnancy. Research implicate reduced maternal immunity from increased steroid levels in pregnancy, increased attractiveness of pregnant women to mosquito bites and increased adherence of parasitized erythrocytes to Chondroitin sulphate A expressed in the placentae. This is worse in the first and second pregnancies. With infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus [HIV], the effects of malaria in pregnancy are even worse. Over the decades, there have been concerted worldwide collaborative efforts, spearheaded by the World Health Organization [WHO] and including governments and allied agencies to tackle the scourge of malaria in pregnancy. The main thrusts of such efforts have been: to increase the use of insecticide treated mosquito bed nets [ITN]; intermittent preventive treatment of malaria [IPT]; and adequate case treatment of acute malaria attacks in pregnancy. While for IPT, Sulfadoxine-Pyrimethamine [SP] combination has been proven
to be of benefit in preventing acute and latent malaria in pregnancy and its associated complications, the WHO has introduced the use of Artemisinin-Combination Therapy [ACT] for the first-line treatment of uncomplicated malaria in pregnancy, the need to confirm malaria before treatment and the enforcement of completion of therapy once started. The Roll Back Malaria [RBM] campaign was launched as a strategy to curtail the
incidence and scourge of malaria especially in the vulnerable groups including pregnant women. The Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] offer a new hope if adequately pursued to achieving eradication of malaria and its complications in pregnancy. There is need to support research into effectiveness and utilization of established and newer control measures.
Keywords: malaria in pregnancy; intermittent preventive treatment; insecticide treated nets; roll back malaria