My daughter is in Kigoma, Tanzania and has the symptoms of Malaria. She was given Duo Cotecxin and it seems to have started making her feel better. But after reading up on all the different types of Malaria parasites I am wondering if a blood test reading at a clinic would be recommended or is it too late for an accurate reading now that she is on meds?
I am always very nervous about people given malaria medication without a proper blood test-based diagnosis. The symptoms of malaria can sometimes be very general, and I have recently seen some data from elsewhere in Tanzania whereby clinics are giving virtually everyone who comes in with a fever malaria medication, even if the blood tests are negative! This is a sure way to develop resistance to malaria drugs, plus exposes people to the potential side effects of medication that they may not need, while also failing to diagnose or treat them for whatever other condition they may also have.
In your daughter’s case, since she is feeling better, it may be that she did indeed have malaria. Regardless, now that she is taking the treatment, she should make sure to finish the full dose of pills. It still could also be worth going in for a blood test. In any case it will put your mind at rest, and if there are still traces of the parasite in her blood, then you will know for sure that she had malaria. Moreover, it might tell you which type of malaria she had. While P. falciparum is the most common form of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, cases of other types, such as P. vivax and P. ovale, are being reported more and more frequently.
These two types can form liver stages (called hypnozoites) which can stay dormant for weeks, months or even years after the initial infection. During this period, the patient will experience no symptoms; then, when the hypnozoites activate and re-enter the blood again, the patient will get a “relapse” of the malaria symptoms. The only drug available to kill these liver stages is primaquine; as such, if your daughter is positively diagnosed with P. vivax or P. ovale malaria, she should be aware of the possibility of a relapse, and perhaps discuss with a doctor the possibility of taking primaquine.
I hope she recovers fully and enjoys her stay in Kigoma—I spent almost a month out there last year!