A new strain of malaria, resistant to drug treatments, has already spread through south-east Asia and has now reached the Cambodia-Thailand border, causing panic at the potential of an international epidemic.
In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, scientists have called for “radical action” in the prevention of the pathogens, which could undermine previous work done to control the disease.
The study analysed blood samples from more than 1,000 malaria patients, from 10 countries, across Asia and Africa – where the disease has been most prevalent.
Fortunately, no evidence of the drug resistant disease was found in three key African sites – Kenya, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Malaria has primarily caused the deaths of African children – prompting renewed fears of its return.
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However, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and eastern Burma are under increased observation, as cases with this type of malaria has been discovered there before – with recent signs already showing the resistant strain is remerging in central Burma, southern Laos and north-eastern Cambodia.
Lead scientist Prof Nicholas White, of the University of Oxford, said, “Resistance is now present over much of South East Asia, and it’s worse than we expected.
“We have to act quickly if we are going to do anything. We will need to take more radical action and make this a global public health priority, without delay.”
Hope is emerging in the form of a new drug that may counter the resistant strain, but is still being developed.
Meanwhile, the UK foreign secretary has announced the UK is preparing plans to prevent the outbreak of Ebola, which is prevalent in West Africa, from reaching British shores.
Photo source: dr_relling via Flickr