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NAIROBI, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- A new drug that is expected to lower malaria transmission among pregnant women living with HIV was unveiled Tuesday by Kenya and Malawian scientists, following rigorous trials.

Through research findings published in the Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, the scientists noted that the addition of the antimalarial drug dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine to other existing medications will significantly reduce the risk of malaria infection among pregnant women who are HIV positive.

"We celebrate these findings that propose an additional arsenal against a disease that risks about 70 percent of our population," said Elijah Songok, the acting director general of Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), in a statement released in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

According to Songok, malaria in pregnancy can trigger life-threatening complications including miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term delivery, and growth restriction of newborn babies.

He added that co-infection with HIV could be fatal to pregnant women, necessitating the urgency to develop novel drugs that could reduce infections in highly endemic sub-Saharan African nations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends daily doses of the antibiotic co-trimoxazole to prevent malaria in pregnant women living with HIV, according to researchers at KEMRI.

As malaria parasites become increasingly resistant to the antibiotic, its efficacy has waned, prompting researchers to explore new medication tailor-made for highly endemic African nations, noted the scientists.

Feiko ter Kuile, a professor of Tropical Epidemiology at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and the study lead, said the new drug reduced malaria incidences among pregnant and HIV-positive women by 68 percent, based on clinical trial results.

The new drug demonstrated high safety and tolerance levels, preventing two out of three malaria infections during pregnancy, noted Hellen Barsosio, a clinical research scientist from KEMRI's Center for Global Health Research.

Barsosio added that the discovery of a new malaria drug for pregnant women living with HIV could lead to a realignment of maternal and newborn health policies in Africa.

Simon Kariuki, the head of the Malaria Program at the KEMRI's Center for Global Health Research, said the development of a novel drug combined with similar trials underway in Gabon and Mozambique will revitalize malaria prevention in Africa. - Xinhua

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