Global health experts worry that a new breed of malaria that has arisen in South Asia could reverse trends in the fight against the disease, since it has proven resistant to the drugs usually used to treat malaria infections.
Cases of malaria are currently treated with a drug called artemisinin, which typically clears the Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria’s symptoms from humans within about 24 hours. However, a new strain of the disease has sprung up on the Thailand-Myannmar border that has shown the ability to cling to its host for three days or more after the administration of treatment. Should this form of malaria spread, the results could be catastrophic:
“We know what will happen in Africa when resistance is bad because we’ve been there before in the 1990s with chloroquine (another anti-malarial drug) … millions of deaths,” [malaria researcher Dr Francois Nosten] warned.
“We must prevent artemisinin resistance reaching Africa, but we also need to control it for the people in Asia – for their future.”