Health Care

Alarm as 'super malaria' spreads in South East Asia

Alarm as 'super malaria' spreads in South East Asia”

A highly drug-resistant malaria superbug has spread from Cambodia to the southern part of Vietnam, testing the limits of the country's treatment capabilities, scientists said. This so-called "superbug" can not be treated with first-line anti-malarial drugs.

"It spread like a fierce blaze to Vietnam", educator Arjen Dondorp, leader of the malaria division at the tropical solution look into unit at Mahidol University in Bangkok, told AFP.

"The fear is that it spreads further, to India and Africa", warned Dondorp.

In a letter, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the researchers detail the "recent sinister development" that has seen resistance to the drug artemisinin emerge.

Roughly 212 million people are infected with the disease each year, the majority of cases, 92 percent, are in Africa. It's the continent from which malaria emerged, and where Anopheles mosquitoes, the insect responsible for spreading the disease, are plentiful. The superbugs are malaria parasites that can beat off the best current treatments, artemisinin and piperaquine.

In southeast Asia, drug treatment failure rates (failure meaning that drugs are ineffective at curbing the effects of malaria, such as fever, mild jaundice, organ problems, anaemia, seizures, coma, and in the most severe cases death) are now approaching 60 per cent.

There is a push to eliminate malaria in the Greater Mekong sub-region before it is too late.

"We are losing a risky race to eliminate artemisinin-resistant ... malaria before widespread resistance to the partner antimalarials makes that impossible", White said.

Earlier this year, medical experts detected the drug-resistant malaria parasite in Binh Phuoc Province in the south and Dak Nong, Gia Lai, Khanh Hoa and Quang Nam provinces in the central region.

"If I'm honest, I'm quite anxious".

After its detection in western Cambodia in 2007, the strain then spread to northeastern Thailand, southern Laos and eastern Myanmar, a previous study by Dondorp and colleagues said.

"Around 700,000 people a year die from drug-resistant infections, including malaria".

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