Gates Foundation battling big new threat in malaria fight

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Just as Myanmar opens up to the world and becomes a place of economic opportunity, fears are rising over the spread of a drug-resistant form of malaria. But efforts are under way, including a big initiative of the Gates Foundation, to fight this problem.

YANGON, Myanmar — One of the world’s most challenging and deadly races is under way in the forests of this turbulent country.

A new strain of drug-resistant malaria has emerged in Myanmar just as the country is emerging from a half-century of isolation, increasing the risk that the lethal scourge will spread into India and Africa.

If the strain reaches other regions, it could undo huge gains made over the past decade — at a cost of billions — to corral the illness.

Malaria mortality has fallen 42 percent worldwide since 2000, but the disease continues to sicken more than 200 million people and kill 500,000 children a year, or about one every minute of every day, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Fighting malaria has been a Sisyphean task over the past century. Major attempts to eradicate the disease — caused by a parasite transmitted by a particular mosquito species — failed in part because it’s a moving target that evolves and develops resistance to drugs and pesticides.

Source: The Seattle Times (link opens in a new window)

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health care, infectious diseases, Non-communicable diseases, pharmaceutical industry, public health