Approximately 80% of the lives of millions of kids, who die every year due to malaria, could be saved. 98% survival after treatment was reported in a trial of 88 children with malaria.
The treatment developed in an 8-year collaborative study is published in the journal PLOS Clinical Trials. The study revealed that fluid depletion was the major cause of occurrence of serious symptoms in Kenyan kids with malaria.
Previously, kids with severe malaria were not given extra fluids due to the fear of aggravation of brain swellings linked with the disease. The new treatment incorporates albumin, a protein that retains water inside the blood vessel, in resuscitation fluids given to children. In the two initial studies, less than 5% of the kids died who received albumin when compared to nearly 40% dying after receiving conventional treatment.
A new trial was carried out on 88 kids with severe malaria, in which, the kids were given either albumin solution or a plasma substitute called gelofusin. Though reduction in shock was seen in both the cases, only 2% of the kids who received albumin died when compared to 16% receiving gelofusion.
Researcher Dr Kathryn Maitland said: "The observation that treating very sick children with severe malaria with albumin infusion can reduce the mortality rate by over 80%, represents a major breakthrough towards improved treatment of this devastating illness.
"However, administration of fluid to children critically ill with malaria is contrary to prevailing practice, and albumin is currently not available in most African hospitals.
"It is absolutely essential that the results are reproduced in larger studies before we advise on any change in practice."
"The results of this trial support have gone some way to answering the question of whether this sort of supportive treatment saves lives and we are now seeking funding to set up a larger trial involving over 1,000 children in Ghana, Gambia and Kenya to confirm these findings," Maitland said.
Professor Brian Greenwood, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "There was still much confusion about whether or not to give children with malaria fluids. The numbers in the trial are small, but this is an encouraging result which certainly should be followed up."