New York: Simple and short text message reminders to take malaria medication can help in the fight against the disease by boosting the rates at which patients complete their medication regimen, shows research.

Each year, malaria kills over 600,000 people, more than half of them children.

Text messages can help fight malaria
Representational Picture

"When patients do not complete their full medication regimen, diseases can develop resistance to treatment. And with infectious diseases like malaria, drug resistant diseases can spread to others" said study co-author Julia Raifman from Harvard University in the US.

"Even in the US, studies show that about half of people don't adhere to their medications - it's easy to forget, or to think you've beaten the disease because you feel better,” she pointed out.

The researchers recruited more than 1,100 people outside pharmacies and healthcare facilities in Ghana. The participants then used their mobile phones to enroll in an automated system.

The system randomly assigned half to receive the text message reminders to take their medication at the 12 hour intervals corresponding to when the pills were to be taken.

During follow ups, the researchers found that those who received the texts were significantly more likely to finish the full regimen.

The study also tested whether a short versus longer, more informative message would be more effective and found unexpectedly that the shorter messages had a significant impact, but the longer ones did not.

The findings appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.