Drug-resistant malaria discovered
New drug-resistant strains of the parasite that causes malaria have been identified in Cambodia.
- Published: 29/04/2013 at 11:51 AM
- Newspaper section: breakingnews
A worker prepares a blood sample for testing at a malaria clinic in Tai Muang, 10 kilometres from the Thai-Myanmar border, in Kanchanaburi province. Scientists have identified new drug-resistant strains of the parasite that causes malaria in Cambodia. (EPA photo)
Last year, scientists warned that drug-resistant strains of malaria were spreading in Cambodia and also appearing along the border between Thailand and Myanmar, raising concerns of an epidemic.
Now scientists have pinpointed the malaria-causing parasites that are able to withstand treatment by the anti-malarial drug artemisinin, according to a study published in the journal Nature Genetics.
The lead author of the study, Dr Olivo Miotto, from Oxford University and Mahidol University, told the BBC that artemisinin is currently the best defence against the mosquito-borne disease. The drug is used widely and can treat an infection in days when combined with other drugs.
“All the most effective drugs that we have had in the last few decades have been one by one rendered useless by the remarkable ability of this parasite to mutate and develop resistance,” he said.
“Artemisinin right now works very well. It is the best weapon we have against the disease, and we need to keep it.”
Dr Miotto’s team sequenced the genomes of 800 malaria-causing parasites from around the world. The scientists found three distinct groups of drug-resistant parasites in Cambodia, but said they did not yet know exactly how the parasites had mutated to withstand artemisinin.
“When we compared the DNA of the parasites in Cambodia, they seem to have formed some new populations that we have not really seen elsewhere,” Dr Miotto said.
Dr Miotto said that understanding the genetic fingerprint of the parasites would help scientists spot and track these strains if they spread further.
Thailand, Myanmar and the US Agency for International Development last week signed a mutual declaration launching a malaria control and prevention project for the Myanmar-Thailand border.
According to a press statement, the scheme “will contribute not only to better health care among communities along the Myanmar-Thailand border but also to the public health environment of the GMS [Greater Mekong Subregion] at large.”
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- Writer: Online Reporters
- Position: Online Reporters