Expert calls for fight against drug-resistant malaria

Leading experts have warned that drug-resistant malaria could spread from southeast Asia to Africa in only a matter of months, placing the lives of millions of children at risk.

Nicholas White, a professor of tropical medicine at Mahidol University in Bangkok, told Reuters that immediate action must be taken to stop the spread of a malaria strain that was discovered along the Thai-Cambodian borer in 2007 that is resistant to the drug artemisinin.

"It is a time bomb, it is ticking," White told Reuters. "It has the potential of killing millions of African children. It could be a Chinese worker acting as an adviser in Cambodian forests who then hops on a plane to Africa. It could go off at any minute."

The World Health Organization recently began a $175 million annual plan to stop and prevent the global spread of artemisinin-resistant malaria outside of the Mekong region.

White, however, has disagreed with the WHO's plan.

"I think we should fight this as a war," White said, Reuters reports. "We are too fractured as a community. "What seems to be lacking is a sense of urgency. People talk in terms of years. I think we should be thinking in terms of months. Time is crucial."

Approximately 243 million people are infected with malaria each year, leading to an estimated 863,000 deaths.