By Kathryn Reed
Scientists have found drug-resistant strains of the malaria parasite occurring along the border of Thailand and Myanmar, indicating that the disease is becoming more difficult to treat.
In 2009, researchers found similar resistance to artemisinin drugs in western Cambodia, away from the current sites. They don’t know if the mosquitoes have moved or if the drug resistance appeared spontaneously.
The World Health Organization recommends giving plant-based drug artemisinin in combination with older drugs to help minimize the risk of developing resistance.
A similar situation emerged in the 1970s with the drug chloroquine, which was previously the first-line treatment for malaria.
“When chloroquine resistance reached Africa in the middle of the 1970s it translated into a large increase in the number of cases and the number of children who died increased dramatically,” said Prof. Francois Nosten, a malaria researcher, to the BBC.
Malaria can be prevented by sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets, spraying insecticides inside to control mosquitoes, and eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed.
The WHO’s 2011 malaria report says 655,000 people died from malaria in 2010. A majority of them were children under the age of 5 and pregnant women.