Malaria & COVID-19: the backside of the coin
Could it really be that malaria infections protect against COVID-19 as was presented during the ASTMH conference this week? Would there actually be a positive effect of having survived malaria? It makes me think of that one time when malaria almost killed me. I have always been very careful not to get bitten by mosquitoes. But this one time it went very wrong. It was July 1994 when I traveled to Tanzania. Once I got to Zanzibar I felt really sick. I had taken chloroquine as prophylaxis because I refused to take the disputed Lariam (mefloquine). I had actually witnessed somebody going bananas after taking a curative dose of mefloquine, so no thank you. Instantly I realised that I most likely was down with malaria and decided to take Fansidar (sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine) as a cure. Not wise, I realised that too late. By the time I made it to the small hospital in Stone Town, I passed out. The world turned black. Thanks to the great doctor and nurse who got me on a quinine drip, antibiotics and more, I was discharged after a few days. It took me six months to recover and get my strength back. How lucky had I been. But it made me wonder how a vulnerable baby or young child could possibly survive such a devastating malaria attack.
Now you know how I became interested in devoting my life to working on malaria. Back to COVID-19. I will not try my luck this time, but I certainly hope that malaria exposure is linked to a lower risk of COVID-19 infection. Interested to read more about the presentations from ASTMH this week? Then you should read the MESA ASTMH reports. Day 1, 2 and 3 are ready, please see below.
Stay healthy, stay safe and enjoy MalariaWorld!
Founder & Senior Editor MalariaWorld
Director Dutch Malaria Foundation