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The impact of covid-19 on malaria

The impact of covid-19 on malaria; 2020 was a year defined by COVID-19. The virus has forced countries to shut down, devastated the economy

By Ground Report
New Update
The impact of covid-19 on malaria

Ground Report | New Delhi: The impact of covid-19 on malaria; 2020 was a year defined by COVID-19. The virus has forced countries to shut down, devastated the economy, plunged millions into extreme poverty, and increased cases of gender-based violence. To date, COVID-19 has infected more than 135 million people and killed more than 2.9 million people. But the impact of the pandemic goes beyond direct infections and deaths. It has devastated healthcare systems and had a terrible knock-on effect on some of the world's deadliest diseases, including malaria.

The impact of covid-19 on malaria

This snapshot provides an indicative update on how life-saving malaria programs and continuity of health services have been affected by COVID-19 in 32 low- and middle-income countries across 2020, and the extent of this disruption.

Disruption of these health services means that people are not being screened, diagnosed, or treated as extensively for HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, threatening the progress the Global Fund has made so far in the fight against these three diseases. Additionally, the availability of COVID-19 products such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and diagnostic tests is critically low.

Exposure to malaria could reduce the incidence of serious illness, hospitalization, and death for people exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as per the new research.

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The research findings, presented at the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting last week, found low levels of severe COVID-19 symptoms among people exposed to SARS-CoV-2 in high-burden areas. malaria, leading researchers to hypothesize that exposure to malaria could offer its survivors a shield against COVID-19.

COVID-19 patients with history of malaria

Severe cases of COVID-19 are often associated with an increase in proteins called cytokines that cause an inflammatory response and tissue damage. Researchers in Uganda found that COVID-19 patients with a history of malaria infections, as measured by levels of antigens in the body, had lower levels of cytokines.

"All patients who were categorized as having high malaria exposure in the past had lower levels of cytokines, overall, for the different cytokines we measured, compared to those who had low previous malaria exposure." Dr. Jane Achan, Senior Research Advisor at the Malaria Consortium, a UK-based non-governmental organization and a co-author of the study said.

As of January 2021, around 59% of community members had been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but this high level of exposure was not accompanied by a large influx of people to health facilities. Some of these communities had not reported any cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

The symptoms attributable to COVID-19 that people reported were not substantially higher than typical rates of illness experienced in communities. In fact, the number of hospitalizations and deaths is less than the age-adjusted rates of severe illness in the US, which explains the fact that, as much of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, Mali's population is relatively young.

“It is not that we are not seeing any marker of severity of the disease, it is that the rates of notification of hospitalizations, symptomatic illnesses, and death are lower than expected. Sometimes several fold down, ”Woodford said.

Wood said they found that these communities had high rates of exposure to other coronaviruses previously, but there is no evidence that antibodies to other coronaviruses provide protection against SARS-CoV-2. Because of this, key hypotheses include low rates of comorbidities in the community or high exposure to other infections, particularly malaria, which has previously been linked to protection against other serious viral infections. (The impact of covid-19 on malaria)

Mali has a high malaria burden. Woodford said that about 35% of the population in one of the rural villages was diagnosed with malaria during the study period. One hypothesis is that the findings could suggest that these people's immune systems have been trained by recurrent malaria infection not to overreact with inflammation when encountered with SARS-CoV-2.

How pandemic affected fight against malaria 

Before the health crisis, there were already signs that global progress against malaria had stalled. "Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, global progress in the fight against malaria had stabilized," explains Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Thanks to the hard work of the public health organizations of the countries affected by this disease, the worst forecasts about the impact of the covid have not been fulfilled. Now, we have to harness that same energy and commitment to reverse the setbacks caused by the pandemic and accelerate the pace of progress, "adds the expert.

Since 2015, 24 countries have seen an increase in deaths from this disease. In the 11 countries with the highest incidence in the world, cases increased from 150 million in 2015 to 163 million in 2020, and deaths increased from 390,000 to 444,600 in the same period.

Despite the difficulties imposed by COVID-19, by the end of 2020, about three-quarters (72%) of insecticide-treated nets had been distributed to countries where malaria is endemic. Malaria preventive drugs were also distributed in 13 countries in the Sahel subregion of Africa. This meant an increase in the number of children (11.8 million more than in 2019) who were able to receive these treatments during the high transmission season of 2020.

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