Magazine article Science News

Malaria Resists Toughest Medicine: Strain That Challenges Frontline Drug Shows Signs of Spreading

Magazine article Science News

Malaria Resists Toughest Medicine: Strain That Challenges Frontline Drug Shows Signs of Spreading

Article excerpt

Malaria that is resistant to the best available drug is more widespread in Southeast Asia than previously reported, new research shows. The worrisome finding suggests that travelers could carry this strain of the malaria parasite to other parts of the globe and unwittingly spread it, scientists reported November ]9.

The frontline drug, artemisinin, is the most potent medication for malaria. Signs of malarial resistance to the drug have surfaced over the past several years in Cambodia (SN: 11/22/08, p. 9). The new findings confirm that resistant malaria has now cropped up in more places. It has appeared in Vietnam and at two spots along the borders of Myanmar (formerly called Burma) with Thailand and China.

"Things are changing. There's no doubt the signs are concerning," said Robert Newman, director of the Global Malaria Programme at the World Health Organization in Geneva. He added that these signals need further verification.

Patients in these areas take longer on average to overcome a malaria infection when given a standard combination of artemisinin and another antimalarial. This lag results from slower clearance of the malaria parasites from the blood, said WHO's Pascal Ringwald, a medical officer who presented the update.

Patients who remain ill for longer stretches despite treatment need extra medication to recover and are also more likely to have fatal cases, Ringwald said.

Malaria is caused by a single-celled parasite that infects the blood. …

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