'We are losing a risky race': 'Super malaria' spreading rapidly in Asia

Henrietta Strickland
September 23, 2017

Vietnam's main malaria treatment is failing at an alarming rate because of a highly drug-resistant superbug that has spread into the southern part of the country from western Cambodia, scientists said Thursday.

Like bacteria, malaria is adapting to our medicines. This so-called "superbug" can not be treated with first-line anti-malarial drugs.

Vietnam's Ministry of Health had said in April that malaria resistant to artemisinin has been reported in five provinces and was threatening to spread nationwide. The strain emerged a few years ago in Cambodia, and has since spread to Thailand and Laos.

"It is alarming that this strain is spreading so quickly through the whole region and we fear it can spread further [and eventually] jump to Africa". The World Health Organisation claims that 1.5 million people are infected with malaria in southeast Asia annually, resulting in over 600 deaths. The superbugs are malaria parasites that can beat off the best current treatments, artemisinin and piperaquine.

Adding that the fact it is mostly drug resistant is a "sinister development".

The single multidrug resistant malaria parasite lineage (PfPailin) has spread to the south of Vietnam where it is responsible for "alarming rates" of first-line treatment failure, the scientists said in a letter for the October 2017 edition of the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease especially deadly to children.

Even so, the disease still kills more than 420,000 people each year worldwide and, in 2015, 91 countries and regions had ongoing malaria transmission.

Roughly 212 million people are infected with the disease each year, the majority of cases, 92 percent, are in Africa.

Drug resistance, whether it be to malaria, bacteria, or fungi, is an emerging theme in the first two decades of the 21st century.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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