Malaria continues to wreak havoc on the world population and the situation turns even grimmer with increased instances of drug resistant malaria. MDR or Multi Drug Resistant malaria has become a major health problem in South East Asia and it could spread to other countries where malaria is rampant.
Malaria attacks more than 200 million cases worldwide and there are hundreds of thousands of death. Artemisinin, which is a naturally derived compound which has been obtained from sweet wormwood plant, has been the mainstay in treating resistant forms of malaria. However of late there have been reports of resistance to artemisinin and it is failing to work in some areas where malaria has developed resistance.
In a paper which was published on Thursday in the Lancet, data of 950 patients from 55 malaria treatment sites in ten regions of Myanmar and nearby regions in Thailand and Bangladesh was analyzed. The researchers found high almost 39% of the patients carried a K13-propeller mutation which is a sign of artemisnin-resistant malaria.
The most worrisome aspect of the study was 47% of the parasite samples were from a region of Myanmar near the Indian border very close to densely populated areas and it could very easily spread to these areas.
The researchers write, “Our study shows that artemisinin resistance extends over more of southeast Asia than had previously been known, and is now present close to the border with India. This finding expands the area in which containment and elimination are needed to prevent the possibility of global spread of artemisinin resistance.”
The researchers conclude with a warning: “A vigorous international effort to contain this enormous threat is needed.”
There is an urgent need for developing new treatments for malaria since the issue of drug resistance is only going to become more widespread in future.