Malaria is a cause of poverty in Africa, therefore its appropriate treatment and prevention is a key strategy for control. This study was designed to determine the preferred treatment and control methods adopted by young adults in an urban setting, and the presence and levels of antimalaria antibodies as an indication of exposure.
During a high transmission period in Ibadan, questionnaires on malaria management and treatment practices were administered to 307 undergraduate science majors. Follow up questionnaires were also administered to some of the students. Microscopy was done to determine parasitaemia, and antibodies to Plasmodium falciparum
MSP 1 were measured by ELISA.
In this population, malaria prevalence was 17 % (19/109) and parasite burden was generally low. Anti malaria antibodies present in 93.6% of the volunteers confirmed malaria exposure. Analysis of data from questionnaires administered to the volunteers revealed that self treatment at home was common; approximately 25% of the volunteers self treated the initial symptoms at home and this included the use of herbal remedies. The use of multiple drug types to treat a single episode of malaria was common practice and chloroquine® and maloxine® (Sulfadoxine-Pyrimethamine) were most often used in treatment. The study showed that 97.5% of the respondents had malaria at least once in the preceding three months. There was no significant difference in malaria prevalence and antibody levels between those living on the university campus and non-residents.
Most of the volunteers had been exposed to the malaria parasite during transmission, but did not translate into illness. This may be due to their knowledge of malaria transmission and prophylactic use of antimalarial medication. We show that many episodes of malaria are treated outside the formal health system.