What is causing our fevers? A new study from Solomon Islands

Thursday, February 28, 2019
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In the past, everyone in remote areas of Solomon Islands who had a fever and no other obvious signs or symptoms was treated for malaria. With improved testing we now know that a lot of people with fever do not actually have malaria. The next logical question was therefore – what is causing these fevers? This is exactly the question being asked at Atoifi.

After 6 months of careful planning and preparation, the Atoifi Health Research Group conducted a study to answer the simple question – what infectious agents are causing fevers in the people who live in or around Atoifi? The team tested 418 people who lived on the Atoifi campus and in three surrounding villages. Tests were conducted for malaria, and also dengue virus, zika virus, chikungunya virus and Ross River virus. All four of these viruses are spread by mosquitoes, so the Atoifi team invited mosquitoes experts from the Ministry of Health to identify what type of mosquitoes are in and around Atoifi.

Testing for malaria was done immediately in the villages. About 10% of people tested positive for malaria – all received medication on the same day. Blood was then taken to the Atoifi Hospital laboratory and frozen. The frozen blood was then sent to James Cook University in Australia to be tested for the 4 viruses. Interestingly the Ministry of Health team found the type of mosquito that can spread all 4 of these viruses. The team is therefore looking forward to the results from the testing at James Cook University to answer the question – what infectious agents are causing fevers in the people who live in or around Atoifi?

More results soon!

For more information about this study please contact Humpress Harrington humpress.harrington@gmail.com

Photo: Mr Humpress Harrington and team testing for mosquito-borne viruses in an East Kwaio village
Story by: A/Professor David MacLaren