Friday, 16 November 2007

Malaria and pregnancy

This arrived in the post from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today

I learned (at the least) two new things.

One is merely a piece of trivia: while reading a short article in French I came across the word paludisme. I looked it up to find that it means malaria. The anti-malarial tablets I had to take as a child were called Paludrine, which I had never really thought about before, assuming it was a name conjured up when it was first manufactured.

Clearly if I took it as a child, it was made a fair while ago, but when I looked it up, I found this on the ICI site:

The first really effective synthetic treatment against malaria – 'Paludrine' – was developed by ICI scientists in research that was hastened by anticipated wartime needs in the Mediterranean and Asia Pacific, when supplies of the natural quinine treatment for malaria were expected to be cut off to Britain. ‘Paludrine’ was to prove the most effective anti-malarial available for more than four decades.

The less trivial thing I learnt today was that pregnant women, because their immune systems are weaker at the end of pregnancy, are particularly vulnerable to ith malaria and the risk of severe anaemia which it may cause. And there is also great risk for the baby: there is a greater risk of spontaneous abortion, of perinatal mortality, premature birth and low birth weight.

MSF take care of both treatment and prevention. They provide preventative treatment to pregnant women and give them impregnated mosquito nets for themselves and their babies.

I don't believe there can be anyone who hasn't heard of MSF. I have admired their work for years, and continue to do so. Some of the stories in the brochure are horrifying.


  1. Great work indeed. The mosquito nets are such simple solutions that should be given out without any discussions.

  2. I do not know how to comment wisely.
    The only thing I know, is that anti-malaria pills makes me sick. For at leats 4 weeks. I'm still allive, so I'm sure the pills did their "job"

  3. Frivolous comment on a serious issue, but I find it a bit quirky that the french call malaria paludisme, seeing as malaria comes from the romance languages 'bad air', which is what was thought to have caused it until a French army doctor Charles Laveran discovered parasites in the blood in 1800 and Sir Ronald Ross proved it was transmitted by mosquitos in 1898. Prior to being called malaria it was called the ague, or marsh fever. Will have to do some digging to find the roots of paludisme.

  4. P.S. Palus is the latin for marsh.

  5. Hi A. --

    Took Paludrine combined with Chloroquine when I was in Tanzania. Apparently, Paludrine no longer is enough in Tanzania. The trouble with Chloroquine was that it would give me technicolor dreams/nightmares. So could only take them once a week. Still, they were a heck of a lot better than Mefloquine -- which, if taken for longer than a year (and I was in Tanzania for two years), can cause hallucinations!

  6. The word "paludisme" has the same root as "palud" or "paludier". It comes from the latin "palus, paludis", meaning "swamp". A paludier works in marshes where he harvest salt. The palud is where he works, or is it a division of a salting marsh ?

  7. oops ! I didn't see j had already found the answer.

  8. Thank you all for the comments.
    Captain L, there are considerable efforts being made to distribute the nets. Of course, they do have to be used properly.
    Tor, I don't know what anti-malaria pills you took. I've heard some can have horrible side-effects.
    j, thanks for your detective work, and ZapPow too. I'm still wondering why it changed from pludism to malaria.
    YTSL, we had to take Chloroquine once a week in later years. Whether that was because we had moved areas, or because the Paludrine was becoming ineffective as a result of resistance I don't know.
    ZapPow, welcome:) I don't think we've met before:)


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