Anti-malaria drug loses potency

April 13, 2012

THAILAND – A team of researchers from the US and Thailand says the growing number of cases of drug-resistant malaria being reported in Thailand and neighboring countries threatens the worldwide campaign to control and eliminate the mosquito-borne disease. The malaria parasite in the region is becoming resistant to the first-line malaria therapy – artemisinin combination treatment – and experts say there is a real danger of the resistant strain moving to Africa, where malaria is widespread.

The research team fears that the resistance will spread across Southeast Asia and then spill over into Africa, whree the vast majority of deaths per year (caused by malaria) occur. According to the group, when there is resistance to a anti-malaria drug the mortality rates go up.

Their research found evidence of growing resistance to artemesinin therapy for malaria in the border regions of Thailand and Burma, which they fear can spread westward across south east Asia and into Africa. The researchers are calling for immediate steps to control the spread of the resistant malaria parasite.

The number of malaria deaths dropped in the last few years because of the artemisinin combination treatment, and the team predicts that mortality figures will rebound if the drug loses its efficacy.

Despite the bad news, the first-ever malaria vaccine may help alleviate the situation.The malaria vaccine is said to be available by 2015. But it will be just one more weapon against malaria, and the problem of resistance to artemisinin is real.

Experts say drug-resistant strains of malaria likely will continue to emerge. The solution, they believe, is to support the development of new drugs and new therapies to fight the disease.

Category: Health alert

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.