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)
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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid