Treating Malaria Without Laboratory Test Is Wrong, Says Experts
Medical experts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), have revealed that health workers across the country treat malaria patients without conducting laboratory test and also without administering the prescribed drugs.
According to the research conducted on about 5,000 health workers working in different public health facilities, pharmacies and drug stores in 40 communities in Enugu State, patients are often given malaria drugs based on the signs and symptoms they manifest, contrary to standard recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO), that patients’ blood should be tested for the presence of malaria parasites before confirmed cases are treated with Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy.
Some of the implications of treating without testing, according to the investigation, are disability, death, adverse drug reactions, malaria parasite becoming resistant to the drug and drug failure.
Prof. Obinna Onwujekwe, one of the research officers, said there are a number of reasons health workers do not test patients before prescribing drugs. He noted that the outcome of the research indicated that malaria would continue to be a major health challenge for many years to come in the country.
The don said: “There should be provision of simple diagnostic tools such as the Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Tests, for health workers in remote locations to enable them correct malaria diagnosis and prescription.
“Sometimes the simple diagnostic tools are not available. However, most health workers feel that almost all fevers are malaria and they just treat presumptively. Also, some health workers already have an ingrained bad habit of treating without proper laboratory diagnosis.
“In addition, some providers may want to maximise their profits and so will provide treatment to all patients that come to them without diagnosis. The major harm is that malaria may not be eliminated in Nigeria and will continue to be a major burden, causing death and disability, especially to children under five years and pregnant women,’’ he said.