Malaria Fights Back Best Therapy Losing Effectiveness
The malaria parasite has changed its coat again and is fighting back against the most effective drugs. Health providers are expressing concern over a new strain of malaria that is appearing in SE Asia. The past 18 months have seen the emergence of a resistant malaria parasite on the Thai/Cambodia border. Health providers are now seeing a similarly resistant parasite on the Thai/Myanmar border. Speculation also places it in China and Vietnam.
While the malaria plasmodium can still be fought with the newest and most effective therapy, it is taking longer and longer to work.
That is echoed by United States development agency USAID, which says artemisinin-based combination therapy is “now taking two to three times longer to kill malaria parasites along the Thai-Cambodian border than elsewhere.”
There is worry that this new malaria strain could spread to Africa which has the highest rate of this disease. Worldwide, approximately one million people die from malaria, many of them children.
Malaria is a disease of the blood. Tiny parasites are transmitted to people via mosquitoes. If a mosquito feeds on the infected blood of a person, it can pass the parasite along when it next feeds. The life cycle of the malaria parasite is complex, but periodically the parasite destroys red blood cells, making people very ill if it doesn't kill them. Pregnant women and children are most vulnerable.
It is believed that malaria originated in Africa but has spread throughout the world, as far north as London. The ancient Romans gave malaria its name, believing it came from bad air - Mal aria.
One of the most effective ways to fight malaria is to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. This requires a strict attention to preventing the accumulation of containers that can hold water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, but only require tiny amounts.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is donating over $22 million over the next five years to fight this new drug resistant strain of malaria. The emphasis on their campaign is small practical methods like providing mosquito nets to break the cycle of infection. The Global Fund is earmarking $102 million to try to contain this new more robust malarial parasite.