The world has cause for more alarm after researchers discovered potentially deadly malaria in the areas between the Southeastern Asian countries of Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand that is highly resistant to treatment, among them the foremost drug artemisinin which has a near 100% rate of success in curing usual malaria. This particular Plasmodium falciparum however may cause an epidemic which may result in possibly hundreds of thousands of deaths if left uncontrolled.
Studies conducted by a team of British and Thai scientists ended in identification of the parasitic disease’s genome that is causing the constant mutation in the virus so that it develops resistance to artemisinin treatments.
According to their published paper in the medical journal The Lancet, 3,202 patients diagnosed with malaria in the western region of Thailand were treated with antimalarial drugs from the year 2001 to 2010.
Results found that the average time the drugs took effective in halving the presence of malaria rose from 2.6 hours to 3.7 hours showing that the drugs are becoming less and less effective.
Compared to over 110 western Cambodian patients who were first struck by the resistant malaria sometime between 2006 and 2009, the average time of the Thai patients was just 1.8 hours below below their Cambodian counterparts.
Patients from Laos did not seem to have the resistant malaria as opposed to their neighbors.
The same team of researchers are warning that the mosquito-borne disease should be contained as much as possible before the effectiveness of the drugs wear out resulting in increased resistance rates elsewhere in Southeast Asia and unneeded deaths.
If appropriate, preemptive measures aren’t put in place, history may treat artemisinin-based treatments becoming seriously less effective as it did with artemisinin’s antimalarial predecessors, such as chloroquine, which eventually led to resistant malaria spreading from Southeast Asia to Africa producing hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly that of pregnant women and children.
Annually, malaria kills over 1 million people. Even the most conservative estimates put the death toll around a horrifying 700,000.
Concerns have risen recently over the increased resistance of several diseases including malaria and the more open and faster traveling by millions of human beings to and from affected regions where they may pick up the unwanted diseases.
(Cover Photo: Albert Bonniers Forlag)