Management, Treatment And Prevention Of Malaria In Children
Management of Malaria
Aim in the treatment of malaria is to eliminate the erythrocytic form of malaria from circulating blood and in various organs and tissue and simultaneously to maintain good general condition of the patient. Hence treatment of malaria should include : 1. General measures, 2. Symptomatic and specific therapy, 3. Management of complications.

High index of suspicion is an important factor for success of treatment. Blood smear examination is necessary to confirm the diagnosis as well as to identify the species. However, treatment should not be delayed till the results of smears are available as negative smear does not rule out malaria, even cerebral malaria. If facilities are available, parasitic index should be done as it predicts the prognosis. Parasite count more than 2-10% predicts poor prognosis with fatality rate of more than 50% particularly in non-immune persons inspite of the treatment. Parasite count > 1% is usually not seen in non-falciparum type of malaria.

General Measures:
By and large, non-falciparum malaria is not fatal and usually respond to routine line of treatment and routine anti-malarial drugs. In contrast, in P.falciparum malaria the rate of complications and drug resistance is high. Hence, hospitalisation is more desirable for patients infected with P.falciparum malaria with high parasite load for proper follow up and observation as there is a possibility of progression to various complications. Hospitalisation for malaria caused by other species should be considered as per illness and the merit of the case. Younger children, unimmunised patients from non-endemic ares are likely to have more complications. Indications for hospitalization should include severe prostration, weakness, persistent vomiting, dehydration, hyperpyrexia and signs of complications. Young children and pregnant women particularly infected with P.falciparum should be hospitalised. Good nursing care, maintenance of clear airway, turning the position of patient every two hours to prevent the bedsores, nursing in side position to avoid the aspiration etc. are required particularly in comatose patients. Proper nutrition, correction of vitamin deficiency, correction of fluid and electrolyte imbalance should be carried out. Intake and output chart should be recorded. Look for black or dark urine. Symptomatic treatment includes : management of fever, vomiting, etc. During hyperpyrexia, high fever should be brought down with the help of paracetamol (oral or rectal) and by tepid sponging. Anti-emetic like Domperidone for vomiting is useful. Anticonvulsants may be used- Inj. Phenobarbitone : 10-20 mg/kg I.V, Inj. Diazepam : 0.2 mg/kg IV, Inj.Phenytoin Sodium 20 mg/kg IV are useful. Hypoglycemia is a common complication in P.falciparum infection, more so in pregnant women and children. If blood sugar is low give 50% Dextrose IV and then 5-10% I.V. Dextrose may be given (80 mg/kg in 24 hours). Blood sugar should be checked repeatedly as hypoglycemia often recurs in patients receiving quinine and untreated hypoglycemia can be fatal. Glucagon 1 mg I.M every 30 minutes is useful for treating hypoglycemia. Packed cell transfusion may be required if associated with severe anemia of Hb less than 5 gm% or HCT < 20-30%. To prevent pulmonary edema give 1-2mg/kg of furosemide IV. Hemoglobinuria is treated by alkalinisation of urine and adequate IV fluids keeping in mind to avoid fluid overload. Record of fluid intake and output should be maintained and fluid should be replaced maintaining the CVP at 5 cm of water. Urine output should be more than 30 ml/hr. Urine output < 12 ml/kg/24 hours and serum creatinine > 3 mg/dl indicates renal failure and may require fluid challenge test and IV Furasemide 1-2 mg/kg. If no response is obtained, low dose of dopamine 3-5 ug/kg/min may be given. Dialysis may be considered if there is no response.

Specific treatment:
antimalarial drug treatment should be started on high index of suspicion even without demonstrating the parasite on the peripheral smear particularly in small children, pregnant women and immunocompromised patients. Among the various antimalarial drugs, chloroquine still remain the drug of choice until unless and resistance is suspected or it is associated with a complication. Antimalarial drugs should as far as possible be given orally and drugs must be calculated on mg/kg body weight base/salt.

Treatment of non-falciparum malaria:
As they do not develop resistance, chloroquine is the drug of choice. Loading dose of 10 mg/kg base is followed by 5 mg/kg after 6 hours and repeated on 2nd and 3rd day. If necessary, therapy may be extended for 7 days. If associated with vomiting and if child is not taking feeds, the drug may be given parenterally in 5 mg. base per kg body weight per day. If there is a suspicion of resistance then quinine may be given. For P.vivax and P.ovale, primaquine should be given to eradicate the parasites that survive in the liver (Hypnozoites) to achieve radical cure which prevents relapse. Dose of primaquine is 0.2 to 0.3 mg/kg/day for 14 days and is available in the form of tablets of 2.5 mg and 7.5 mg. Patients with G6PD deficiency are vulnerable to hemolysis, hence it is contraindicated in such patients. However, in mild variants of G6PD deficiency, primaquine may be given 0.8 mg/kg, once a week for 6 weeks. In endemic areas, reinfection is common and hence radical cure with primaquine is not indicated.

Treatment of P.falciparum :
Though chloroquine is effective in falciparum malaria, recently drug resistance have been reported from all over the world. Routinely chloroquine should be used unless resistance is suspected or associated with the complications, then quinine is desired. Chloroquine when given parenterally is given in the loading dose of 10 mg/kg base in isotonic fluid over 8 hours followed by 15 mg/kg given over next 24 hours It may also be given in the dose of 5 mg. base/kg in isotonic fluid over 6 hours and repeated every 6 hourly for a total of 5 doses. Loading dose should not be used if the patient has received quinine or quinidine within preceding 24 hours or mefloquine within preceding 7 days. If intravenous infusion is not possible, Chloroquine may be given 3.5 mg/kg/ I.M. or S.C. 6 hourly. For chloroquine resistant malaria, complicated malaria or if sensitivity is not known, quinine dihydrochloride is given in the dose of 20 mg of salt/kg as loading dose by infusion over 4 hours in 5% dextrose over 8-12 hours. Maintenance dose of quinine is 10 mg of salt /kg in dextrose saline over 4 hours and dose should be repeated every 8-12 hours until patient can take oral medications. Oral quinine should be started as early as possible. Quinine tablets are given in the dose of 10 mg/kg body weight every 8 hourly for 7 days. Quinidine may be given if parenteral quinine is not available. To shorten the course,single dose of Sulfadoxine pyrimethamine is given, in the dose of Sulfadoxine 25 mg/kg body weight and pyrimethamine 1.2 mg/kg body weight. This drug is avoided in pregnant women.

In resistant cases (in significant degree of quinine resistance as reported in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam), oral tetracycline 250 mg 4 times a day is given for 7 days (contraindicated in children under the age of 8 years and in pregnant women).

Mefloquine 15 mg/kg (Maximum 1000 mg) is given divided in 2 doses 12 hours apart (1 tablet of Mefloquine contains 250 mg of base). Mefloquine should not be given until 12 hours after completion of parenteral quinine administration. It should be avoided during first trimester of pregnancy.It is also an outstanding suppressive prophylactic drug when administered weekly or fortnightly for drug resistant P.falciparum and P.vivax infection. As it is chemically related to quinine it exhibits cross resistance with it. Commonest side effect is skin rash.

Halofantrine - It is effective against erythrocytic stages of all species of malaria. Side effects include abdominal cramps, nausea & diarrhoea. This drug should not be given to pregnant women as it is embryotoxic. It has cardiotoxicity and is available as oral preparation only. Dose :8 mg base/kg body weight every 6 hours for 3 doses.

Quinghaousu - It is an antimalarial drug extracted from Chinese herb artemisia anna. It is effective on asexual form of malarial parasite and can be used orally as well as parenterally. Various preparations available are : Artesunate : given orally 5 mg/kg stat as on 1st day followed by 2.5 mg for next 4 days. Artemisinin :given orally 25 mg/kg stat on 1st day followed by 12.5 mg for next 4 days. Inj.Artemether (Inj.Paluther 80 mg) : 3.2 mg/kg on 1st day, followed by 1.6 mg/kg for 5 days, until patient can take orally or 3 days treatment at a dose of 1.6 mg/kg twice daily for a total of 9.6 mg/kg. It has good schizonticidal activity. Although there is a little information about its use in pregnancy, general consensus is that it can be used in mefloquine-resistant falciparum malaria. However in early pregnancy, quinine is still preferred. It destroys the membrane of the parasite and inhibits the parasite growth. It reacts with protein (known as hermione) in the membrane of the red cells and of the parasite. Within 12 hours, 15% reduction in parasite load is obtained and in 24 hours there is 80% reduction in parasite load. Side effects are minimal. There is no serious impact on cardiac function and hypoglycemia is not reported. It has excellent systemic tolerance. There is no tinnitus, dizziness, or blurring of vision and no known allergic reactions.

Malaria is an epidemic disease in certain parts of the world and also endemic at number of places. It is a significant public health problem. Age old saying "Prevention is better than cure" is absolutely true for this disease as the morbidity and mortality can be brought down by stringent preventive measures which include -

  • Measures to prevent mosquito bites : 
    use of bed net (preferably treated with mosquito repellent like Permethrin), wire gauze screen for windows and doors, use of mosquito repellants like citronella oil, neem oil, creams like Dimethyl phthalate (DMP), DEET, use of coils (active ingredient is generally synthetic pyrethroid) or use of mats. 

  • Mosquito control measures 

    • Insecticide sprays like DDT, BHC, aldrin etc. or Genophosphorus components, malathion, chlorthion and fumigants like SO2 and methylbromide. to kill the mosquitos 

    • Antilarval measures like use of larvivorous fishes. 

    • Removal of breeding places by proper drainage system. Covering of stored water, spraying of oil. 

  • Chemoprophylaxis and use of vaccines :
    Chemoprophylaxis is recommended only for pregnant women, non-immune travelers and in children below the age of 4 years. Drugs used for this purpose are : 

    • Proguanil - 3 mg/kg daily orally but not preferred as parasites are by and large resistant. 

    • Chloroquine - 5 mg. base/kg/wt (max 300 mg) daily and is drug of choice in non-resistant cases. 
    However side effects need monitoring and for resistant cases Pyrimethamine + dapsone or sulphadoxine + primethamine, doxycycline and mefloquine may be used. Travellers from non-endemic area who want to visit should be asked to start at least 1 week before the journey and should be continued at least 4-6 weeks after leaving the endemic area.

Malarial vaccine
Despite massive investment towards development of material vaccine, a safe, effective and long lasting vaccine is still a dream. The various vaccine tried are :

  • Liver stage vaccine or sporozoite stage vaccine - 

    • Circumsporozoite surface protein (CS protein) which covers the sporozoites. However it is found to be unprotective.

    • Cytotoxic lymphocyte fragment vaccine.

    • Sporozyte surface protein II (SSP-II) : This is another major sporozoite protein and antibodies against the peptide strongly inhibit hepatocyte invasion of sporozoite.

    • Liver stage antigen I : begin tried 

  • Blood stage vaccines : 
    Though this vaccine will be incapable of preventing infection, they will be definitely successful in reducing parasite load or transmission of infection.

    • Merozoite surface antigen - (MSA) I & II are polypeptide in the merozoite membrane and found to be highly immunogenic. 

    • Ringed erythrocyte surface antigen and erythrocyte binding antigen- They are again merozoite proteins. Antibodies against this antigen can inhibit invasion of erythrocytes. 

    • Though it will be a long time before the malaria vaccine becomes a reality, ideal malarial vaccine should be discovered which should not only reduce morbidity and morality but be also cheap and stable.

Successful management of malaria in children requires high index of suspicion in clinical diagnosis, prompt & early initiation of the treatment and anticipation & management of various complications with proper supportive care. However, the most important issue is the control of malaria through vector control and enviornmental sanitation.Malarial vaccine is the hope for the future.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Consultant Pediatrician, Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, India.

First Created : 4/2/2001
Last Updated : 7/1/2015


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