Kenya is among nine countries across Africa and Asia where clinical trials will be conducted for a new anti-malarial drug.
Developed by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, alongside Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), the new medicine – known as KAF156 – is aimed at dealing with the tough-to-treat drug-resistant malaria.
Clinical trials have already begun in Mali. This will be followed by trials at 16 additional centres, some in Kenya, over the next couple of months.
Initial tests suggest that KAF156 has the potential to rapidly clear malaria infection, including resistant strains, as well as block transmission of the mosquito-borne parasite.
“To build on the gains made against malaria since the turn of the century, we need new medicines that are effective across all types of resistance patterns and geographies, and that are easy to administer, especially to children,” Dr David Reddy, the chief executive officer of MMV, said.
The first centre in the country will be set up in the western Siaya County, with the first patient expected at the site by December 4.
Another centre will be established in the same region in Kisumu County and the first patient will be enrolled on March 27, 2018.
“Developing new anti-malarial medicines is critical to achieving malaria elimination.
"Innovative science continues to be our best weapon against the disease,” Dr Vas Narasimhan, global head of drug development and chief medical officer at Novartis, said.
KAF156 belongs to a new class of anti-malarial compounds called imidazolopiperazines.
The drug is designed to be used in combination with an improved formulation of the existing anti-malarial lumefantrine.
The World Health Organization recommends five different artemisinin-based combination therapies for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria.
In Kenya, the Ministry of Health only recommends Coartem (artemether-lumefantrine) as the drug that can be dispensed at public health institutions.
Early this month, the government announced that it is setting up an online portal to track drug resistance in the country.
The platform, dubbed Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System, will enable the Health ministry to collect data on different types of bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics used for treating the ailments they cause.
The information captured by this system – currently in the final stages of completion – will also provide an insight into commonly used antibiotics that are no longer effective in disease control.