ACTS-resistant malaria on the rise
By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI
Scientists are predicting that artemisinin-resistant malaria found on the border of Thailand and Myanmar could now spread to India and then Africa as resistance to other antimalarial drugs has done before. Artemisinin was recently adopted as the first line treatment for malaria.
According to a new study, if the artemisinin-resistant malaria does spread, eliminating the disease could prove impossible and will threaten initiatives to reduce its global burden.
The study funded by researchers from Shoklo Malaria Research Unit and Texas Biomedical Research Institute followed reports in 2009 of the emergence of artemisinin-resistant malaria parasites in western Cambodia, 800-km away from the Thailand-Myanmar border where the new cases of resistance have been found.
Resistance to artemisinin makes the drug less effective and could eventually render it obsolete, putting millions of lives at risk.
In the study, the researchers measured the time taken to clear parasites from the blood stream in 3,202 patients infected with falciparum malaria using oral artesunate medications over a 10-year period between 2001 and 2010.
Over this period, the average time taken to reduce the number of parasites in the blood by a half (the “parasite clearance half-life”) increased from 2.6 hours in 2001 to 3.7 hours in 2010, a clear sign that the drugs were becoming less effective. The proportion of slow-clearing infections (a half-life of over 6.2 hours) increased over this same period from six to 200 out of every 1,000 infections.