Drug-resistant malaria establishes itself in western Thailand

According to the World Health Organization, a drug-resistant form of falciparum malaria may have become resistant to another frontline therapy and established itself in western Thailand.

Drug-resistant malaria was previously detected in Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. Efforts to contain the resistant form of the disease from spreading to Africa are underway, Ars Technica reports.

Drug resistant malaria has twice spread from Southeast Asia to Africa, which bears 90 percent of the world's malaria burden. While the intensity of malaria is relatively light at the Thai-Cambodia border, the parasites at the location have somehow been able to develop a tolerance for frontline drugs such as sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and chloroquine.

The frontline of the fight against malaria worldwide is now taken up by artemisinin-based therapies, which are usually part of combination therapies. By hitting the parasites from two sides at once, the probability of mutations giving resistance to both drugs simultaneously goes down considerably. Despite the remarkable prowess of artemisinin combination therapies, the efficacy of the drug is weakening. The time needed to clear the parasites along the Thai-Cambodia border region has grown longer, which is a known indicator of resistance.

It is estimated that more than 250 million courses of ACT were administered in 2011. There would be major consequences if ACTs were lost as effective treatments in the battle against malaria.