A new strain of drug-resistant malaria has spread across Myanmar and has almost reached the Indian border, it was revealed by a study published today. The new strain of malaria is resistant to the most effective treatment available today.
Charles Woodrow is the senior author of this study and works at the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok. He stated that researchers have confirmed the presence of a drug-resistant malaria strain at Homalin, in the Sagaing Region, a mere 15 miles (25 km) from India.
To see the levels of resistant parasites that we do extending that far sort of north [in Myanmar] and close to the border was, to some degree, a surprise. We don’t know exactly how fast things are moving.
He added that their study was a quick snapshot of the current drug-resistant malaria situation. He continued to say that he believes people should be worried about the spread of the disease. He and his colleagues fear that this strain of drug-resistant malaria will follow the path of various other drug-resistant strains of malaria that have eventually arrived in Africa and will make eradicating malaria almost impossible.
Humans are infected with malaria via mosquitos. A simple bite from a mosquito that carries the parasite is enough for it to be transmitted into our bloodstream and directly into the liver, where the parasite plasmodium falciparum lays and breeds.
Malaria is treated with artemisinin, but this current drug-resistant malaria is completely unresponsive to the treatment.
For their study, scientists have studied parasites from various areas of Myanmar to see if they carried mutation. Exactly 940 samples of parasites were collected from patients at over 50 malaria treatment centers.
It was established that the strain of drug-resistant malaria started in Myanmar. The strain was also found present in four other countries: Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Fortunately, so far the problematic parasite was found in natural forest areas and not big cities.
Scientists warn that if the present strain of drug-resistant malaria spreads to India and Africa, then millions of deaths are to follow.
Every year around 200 million people are infected with malaria. According to the World Health Organization, in 2013 malaria caused the death of half a million people.
The study was published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases and it was conducted by Defense Service Medical Research Center from Myanmar.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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