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Dr. Willis S. Akhwale: A test that saves lives

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  • Dr. Willis S. Akhwale: A test that saves lives

    Translated by Google

    Dr. Willis S. Akhwale: A test that saves lives.
    Monday, September 26, 2011 8:44

    Each year, clinics and hospitals in Cameroon and throughout Africa hosting countless children burning with fever. Some suffer from deadly diseases ranging from malaria to pneumonia or meningitis. However, doctors have great difficulty in diagnosis because they lack the tools or equipment needed.

    This is a problem that I encounter from the time long ago when I was studying medicine and internal Nakuru Provincial Hospital General in Rift Valley in Kenya.

    Diagnostic tests for children are rare, we had to rely on our intuition to determine what caused the fever. We were wrong and often we find therefore unable to prescribe the right treatment to save our young patients.

    Twenty years later, doctors still do not have tests to diagnose quickly and accurately many febrile illnesses. If we had made progress in the detection of malaria or HIV / AIDS, when these tests are negative then, we are left with few options to determine what the little patient suffers.

    As a result, far too many children in Cameroon and other African countries continue to suffer needlessly as a result of misdiagnosis, while fever contributes annually to the deaths of nearly three million children under five years die of malaria or pneumonia.

    We should have made more progress. The first step, to prescribe the right medication is to have a good test.

    Physicians and other health workers desperately need a test to rapidly detect and correctly illness that causes fever, to the exclusion of any other possibility. A tool like this would be revolutionary. It would allow us to prescribe the appropriate medication for children, not to waste resources on unnecessary treatments and in many cases, to snatch a child to death.

    There are an innovative organization that works to promote the development of such tests. BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) launched a competition with large sums of money for any company that happen to create one.

    The competition, the Global Health Innovation Quotient Prize (Award for innovation quotient Global Health Award or IQ), will be awarded to companies that have developed a strong enough test to be used in places where there is neither clean water or electricity. It should be a low cost, portable and easy to administer. And it will suit both an inpatient in Yaounde as a child who is present in the rural clinic to a remote area of ​​Maroua

    There are many reasons to expect a test that would reliably diagnose various febrile diseases. For example, it would save each year nearly 220,000 children Saharan Africa alone, or almost 350 000 worldwide.

    With this revolutionary test, doctors would give less bad drugs to children. As a precaution, doctors and health workers often prescribe anti-malarial treatment, even if the test is negative, because its results are not always reliable. Those without access to diagnostic tests automatically give antimalarials or antibiotics to febrile children. I have seen too often when I headed the Kenya National Malaria Control, from 2006 to 2008.

    The result, unfortunately, is that children receiving antimalarial drugs and antibiotics useless and potentially dangerous. This reinforces resistance to these drugs and reduces their effectiveness in the following patients. This can be seen increasingly in Africa and the world. A test that would enable physicians and caregivers to diagnose quickly and accurately as possible the causes of febrile illnesses in children is one of the potential solutions to this problem.

    For the test to become a reality, doctors and parents need to raise awareness. The day he becomes available, those responsible for public health will find a way to integrate it into their health systems and train staff in its use. They should also make sure to stock treatments for diseases that can finally diagnosed.

    It is essential that potential donors and government support incentives as the price we discussed for the development of life-saving diagnostic tools. Fortunately, the idea of ​​contests to stimulate innovation makes its way to various governments, including that of Barack Obama, the United States. If the price of IQ proves successful, it could be a model and encourage research and other life-saving products that African countries need to fight against emerging infectious diseases re-emerging.

    Every child who dies because a doctor could not detect what it is suffering a case is too much, all the more regrettable that we live in a time of great technological advances. We need to ensure that physicians have the necessary to help protect our vulnerable children and save precious lives.

    Dr. Willis is malariologist Akhwale. He heads the department of prevention and control of diseases in the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation.

    "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
    -Nelson Mandela