Drug-Resistant Malaria On The Rise In Southeast Asia | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Drug-Resistant Malaria On The Rise In Southeast Asia

For malaria in Southeast Asia, there's good news and bad news right now. Overall, the number of cases is down, but there's a growing problem of drug resistance in the cases that do crop up.

Researchers worry that superstrains of the parasite — strains immune to the most common medications — could wipe out the recent progress against malaria.

Even more worrisome is the prospect that that drug resistance could spread to India and eventually to Africa. And on this front, history isn't very comforting. In the past Southeast Asia has been a hot spot for malaria drug resistance.

"Resistance to chloroquine and pyrimethamine started here," says Arjen Dondorp, who directs malaria research at the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok. "Those two were very important drugs until recently. Very cheap, good drugs. We've lost them to resistance, especially here in the region. And then it has spread from here to the rest of the world."

The current resistance is developing to artemisinin-based drugs — the last, best treatments we have to stop malaria.

When this family of medicines first came on the market, they appeared to be wonder drugs. Over the last decade, they have proven incredibly effective at treating malaria around the world.

Global deaths from the mosquito-borne disease have fallen from roughly a million a year in 2000 to 650,000 in 2010. Simultaneously, the number of malaria cases has dropped, and these gains are attributed mainly to the use artemisinin.

Dondorp says if the artemisinin drugs start to fail on a large scale, it could be a major setback for malaria control efforts globally. "Chloroquine resistance was very bad in the '90s before the artemisinin drugs were introduced and has caused millions of deaths in Africa," he says. "So the big fear is that the same could happen with artemisinins."

The resistance currently is being found on both sides of Thailand's border with Myanmar in the west and Cambodia in the east. There have also been reports of malaria drug resistance in Vietnam.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Kids' Films And Stories Share A Dark Theme: Dead Mothers

Why do so many animated movies star motherless kids? Sarah Boxer, a graphic novelist, cartoon-lover and mother, talks to NPR's Kelly McEvers about the phenomenon and the message it sends to children.
NPR

Saskawhat? A Novel Berry From Canada Takes Root On Michigan Farms

Some rookie farmers in northern Michigan are growing saskatoon, an imported shrub from Canada that looks like blueberry. They're also experimenting with it in the kitchen — in jams and pies.
NPR

What Will Become Of Obama's Request For Immigration Relief Funds?

NPR's Arun Rath talks to political correspondent Mara Liasson about the chances of a political agreement over how to handle the migration of thousands of Central American children.
NPR

Looking For Free Sperm, Women May Turn To Online Forums

Bypassing commercial sperm banks, thousands are logging on to websites where women can connect with men at no cost. Anecdotes abound, but the scope of the unregulated activity is unclear.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.