Study raises red alert on spread of untreatable malaria with choice drug

There is a red alert that malaria is becoming untreatable with the drug of choice, Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT), and the vector, mosquitoes, is becoming resistant to the recommended insecticide, pyrethroids, in more parts of the world.

According to a study published yesterday in the journal, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, a lineage of multidrug resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites (superbugs), has widely spread and is now established in parts of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, causing high treatment failure rates for the main falciparum malaria medicines, ACTs.

Also, United Kingdom (UK) doctors reported last week Thursday that a key malaria treatment has failed for the first time in patients being treated in the region.

A team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said it was too early to panic. But it warned things could suddenly get worse and demanded an urgent appraisal of drug-resistance levels in Africa.

However, according to the report, most of the patients were treated with the combination drug: artemether-lumefantrine.In Nigeria, although there are reported cases of treatment failures with ACTs, the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) insisted that the country has not confirmed any case of malaria resistant to the drug-of-choice, ACTs.

According to The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the emergence and spread of artemisinin drug resistant Plasmodium falciparum lineage represents a serious threat to global malaria control and eradication efforts.

The authors warned that malaria parasites resistant to both artemisinin and its widely used partner drug, Piperaquine, are now spreading quickly throughout Cambodia, with fitter multidrug resistant parasites spreading throughout western Cambodia, southern Laos and northeastern Thailand.

Worried that the further spread of these multidrug resistant parasites through India to sub-Saharan Africa would be a global public health disaster, the study authors called for accelerated efforts in the Greater Mekong Sub-region and closer collaboration to monitor any further spread in neighbouring regions.

Also, a genetic analysis of mosquito populations in Africa showed that recent successes in controlling malaria through treated bednets has led to widespread insecticide resistance in mosquitoes.

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