Checking COVID-19 severity in malaria endemic regions

PHOTO:LOLWETV\\The study targets counties of Kisumu, Busia and Siaya in Kenya.

Three counties in Western Kenya that are endemic to malaria have been enrolled into a study to check how malaria treatment affects COVID-19 severity.

The study trial manager Dr Brian Tangara at Kenya Medical Research Institute and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine says the MalCOV study is being carried out in Kenya and Burkina Faso.

In Kenya, Dr Tangara says the study is being conducted in Busia, Kisumu and Siaya Counties and will run for 18 months, with 11 months already utilized.

“Our study is looking at, is malaria a risk factor to COVID-19 severity,” he said.

He noted that the region is prevalent to malaria and with COVID-19, the situation has been unbearable.

Speaking to the press in Kisumu on Tuesday, Dr Tangara says they are enrolling 708 newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients in Western Kenya and Burkina Faso.

“In that 708 patients, we are trying to follow them for a period of one month, these are people who have COVD-19,” he said.

Approximately 142 of the 708 COVID-patients are expected to be co-infected with malaria, excluding pregnant women.

He says the trial will be for those who have COVID-19 and malaria, and they will be followed for a period of six weeks while on medication.

“They will be enrolled in the nested malaria treatment trial and randomized to receive 3-days of artemether-lumefantrine (the current standard of care) or pyronaridine-artesunate, a highly effective antimalarial drug,” he said.

Dr Tangara says they will monitor the disease progression through the scheduled visit for a period of one year to compare the two groups-those with COVID-19 and those infected with malaria.

“At the end of it all we are going to compare, COVID-19 severity between these two groups, we are going to compare the immune response between these two groups,” he said.

“We are also going to compare how we shred the virus, does a patient remain infectious with COVD-19, if they are only COVID-19 or if they are co-infected with malaria at the same time,” he said.

In terms of enrolment patients for the study, Dr Tangara says they are at 50 percent both in Kenya and Burkina Faso.

He says the study is being carried out in a strict adherence to infection prevention and control guidelines, including use of personal protection equipment as per national guidelines in each country.

Dr Tangara says they are not worried about the low positivity numbers in the country, noting that everybody wants COVID-19 to come to an end.

By Joseph Ojwang