News / Health

    Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreading in Southeast Asia

    FILE - A malaria patient is comforted in the only hospital in Pailin, Cambodia.
    FILE - A malaria patient is comforted in the only hospital in Pailin, Cambodia.

    From Vietnam to Burma, the leading drug against malaria is losing potency, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

    On the plus side, the same issue of the journal reports that a new antimalarial drug looks promising in an early test.

    Artemisinin-based drugs have helped make dramatic gains against malaria worldwide.

    “If we lose this class of drugs, it’s really going to be a global health catastrophe,” said Dr. Chris Plowe at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “There’s nothing on the shelf that’s ready to replace those.”

    Resistance on the move

    Plowe and colleagues studied resistance rates in seven Asian and three African countries. The worst problems were along the Thailand-Cambodia border, where the first artemisinin drug failures were reported. But they found significant resistance from southern Vietnam to central Burma.

    The fact that it’s on the move in Southeast Asia “speaks to the possibility that from there it can jump into Africa, which is the big concern, ultimately,” said Columbia University microbiologist David Fidock, who was not involved in the research.

    That’s what happened with resistance to previous malaria drugs, and it cost countless lives.

    Resistance hotspot

    In fact, Plowe said that part of the world has proved to be a drug-resistant malaria hotspot.

    “It’s happened again and again, with at least four different antimalarial drugs, where resistant parasites popped up along the border between Thailand and Cambodia,” he said.

    It’s not clear why. It could be the quality of the drugs available, or how they are taken. Plowe doubts that, though, considering that both are issues elsewhere, too.

    Or it may be something to do the genetics of the parasite. Researchers are looking into that, too.

    Good news

    The good news is Plowe’s group did not find artemisinin resistance in Africa. And the drugs still work, although they take longer.

    But he adds, “We don’t have very much time with the artemisinins based on the rate at which resistance appears to be emerging and spreading.”

    In another study in the same issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, the pharmaceutical company Novartis reports its new drug spiroindolone quickly rid 21 patients of malaria parasites.

    It is on track to be the first to take over when the artemisinin drugs fail.

    “It’s very early days,” Plowe cautions. “This is a very small study. But the initial news is pretty good.”

    Fidock notes, however, that the drug’s target is known to mutate quickly.

    “It’s already to some degree susceptible to resistance,” he said.

    Spiroindolone would be combined with at least one other drug to slow down resistance.

    And other drugs are in the pipeline, racing to be ready for the day when artemisinin fails.

     

     

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.