News / Asia

Drug-Resistant Malaria Vexes Health Workers in Cambodia

Malaria researcher Sornsuda Setaphan prepares blood samples at hospital in Pailin, Cambodia (file photo)Malaria researcher Sornsuda Setaphan prepares blood samples at hospital in Pailin, Cambodia (file photo)
x
Malaria researcher Sornsuda Setaphan prepares blood samples at hospital in Pailin, Cambodia (file photo)
Malaria researcher Sornsuda Setaphan prepares blood samples at hospital in Pailin, Cambodia (file photo)
TEXT SIZE - +
Neou Vannarin
PHNOM PENH – A little-known battle being fought in Cambodia could have global ramifications. The fight is against drug-resistant malaria.  

The problem is more severe in Cambodia than anywhere else in the world, says Steven Bjorge, the World Health Organization's malaria team leader in Cambodia.

About 17 percent of all cases in the Cambodian-Thai border area of Pailin were drug-resistant in 2011, up from 10 percent the year before, according to Char Meng Chuor, director of the government’s National Malaria Center. He says the drug-resistant disease has also spread to parts of Preah Vihear and Pursat, border provinces in Cambodia’s north and west. 

Drug-resistant malaria first evolved in Cambodia in the 1950s and 1960s, according to Bjorge. 

“Since then, every new drug seems to first become resistant in Cambodia or on the Thai-Cambodian border before anywhere else in the world,” he said.

Drug resistance occurs when a patient infected with the Plasmodium falciparum parasite takes an incomplete or incorrect course of anti-malarial drugs. This allows the parasite to evolve resistance to that medicine, so patients must take another course of drugs under the supervision of a doctor, says Char Meng Chuor.

Beyond Borders

The problem is greatest in border towns with a lot of traffic. Here, migrant workers might buy the wrong drugs without seeing a doctor, or misuse treatment in other ways, says Uth Sophal, Pailin field officer for the health group the Malaria Consortium. 

“Migrant people move from one province to another, so when they come to Pailin, which already has resistant malaria, when the mosquitoes bite those people, they will get that parasite and pass it from one province to another province, from one country to another,” he said. 

With some help, health workers are hoping that will change.

The Malaria Consortium has created a network of volunteers at Pailin’s border crossing to check and evaluate migrant workers and treat them if they have malaria.

“When Cambodians cross the border, we measure their temperature,” Uth Sophal said. “If they have any kind of illness, we have to immediately treat them.”

University Research, a global health company fighting drug-resistant malaria in sub-Mekong Region countries, is trying to ensure migrant workers are given bed nets before they move through malaria-prone areas. It is also training local people to provide malaria.

Global Ramifications

Char Meng Chuor says Pailin is the key to stopping the spread of the drug-resistant disease. And the stakes are high.

“Don’t be confused, the resistance is not just one person’s issue,” he said. “Malaria drug resistance is a problem for the whole community ... If mosquitos are imported to other countries, it will go to other countries … This is a concern of the world about Cambodia now.”

Worldwide, malaria infects more than 200 million people each year and kills more than half a million, most of them in Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO has been changing standard drug treatments to stay ahead of the parasite. Two months ago, it started using a drug called Malarone in Pailin, in the hopes of seeing a decrease. 

In a normal case of malaria, a course of drug treatment can eliminate the parasite from the patient’s blood within three days. But in drug-resistant cases, this is not enough to clear the parasite. With these patients, it can take anywhere from five to 28 days to flush out the malaria parasite. 

In Cambodia, the overall number of cases of malaria continues to drop, and with proper control, even the numbers of drug-resistant cases should fall, says Bjorge of the WHO. 

“It is not a hopeless situation,” he said. “I am actually hopeful about the future because we are having a lot of success in Cambodia, despite the headlines saying that drug resistance is growing. The main message is that malaria is dropping in Cambodia, and the few cases that remain are the drug-resistant cases.”

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid