Friday, August 29, 2014

"Third wave" of malaria resistance lurks on Thai-Cambodia border

IRIN: Public health experts and scientists warn history's third major bout of drug-resistant malaria could spread across Asia to Africa unless "radical action" is taken. Artemisinin-resistant strains on the Thailand-Cambodia border threaten the treatment's efficacy and pose containment challenges.

"The bad news is that drug-resistant parasites are actually found in a wider area than we previously thought," said Nicholas White, professor of Tropical Medicine at the University of Oxford, and author of a July 2014 study that revealed drug-resistant malaria parasites have spread to critical border regions of Southeast Asia (including the Cambodia-Thailand and Myanmar-Thailand borders), and that resistance to Artemisinin, the world's most effective anti-malarial drug, is now widespread in the region.

Artemisinin is effective against malaria, but it must be used in a combination of several drugs. In 2007, the World Health Assembly (WHA) issued a resolution calling for the end of monotherapies (or using a single drug) to treat malaria as this practice was causing resistance. A full dose of Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) is now prescribed to prevent the development of drug resistance.

According to White, who also chairs the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network, despite the new evidence of resistance along the Thailand-Cambodia border, not all hope for effective interventions is lost. He told IRIN: "The good news is that we can still treat it using longer ACT courses and we can map its spread using a molecular marker."...

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