Drug-resistant malaria widespread in Southeast Asia, says new study
Drug-resistant malaria, which is now widespread in Southeast Asia, is a serious threat to global efforts to control malaria, warned a new study.
Blood samples from 1,241 malaria patients in 10 countries across Asia and Africa showed that western Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and eastern Myanmar have showed resistance to the world's most effective anti-malarial drug, artemisinin.
There are also indications that central Myanmar, southern Laos and northeastern Cambodia are showing emerging resistance to the drug.
A problem area is the Cambodia-Thailand border, where malaria parasites have developed resistance to two other anti-malarial drugs in the past.
Fortunately, the African sites included in the study showed no signs of resistance.
“It may still be possible to prevent the spread of artemisinin resistant malaria parasites across Asia and then to Africa by eliminating them, but that window of opportunity is closing fast,” senior author Nicholas White, professor of tropical medicine at the University of Oxford, said in a statement.
“Conventional malaria control approaches won’t be enough – we will need to take more radical action and make this a global public health priority, without delay,” White said.
New medicines won't be widely available for years
There are new medicines being developed to fight malaria but they are unlikely to be available for widespread distribution for several years, the researchers said.
“The artemisinin drugs are arguably the best anti-malarials we have ever had. We need to conserve them in areas where they are still working well,” said Elizabeth Ashley of the University of Oxford who led the study.
Although there has been a substantial reduction in the number of people falling ill and dying from the disease, with approximately 3. 3 million deaths prevented since 2000, it is estimated that more than 600,000 people still die from malaria each year, most of them children under five years of age living in Africa.