Artemisisin-resistant malaria spreads in SE Asia

The World Health Organization recently warned that steps need to be taken to limit the spread of artemisinin-resistant malaria first seen along Thailand's borders with Myanmar and Cambodia.

Newly reported evidence suggests that artemisinin resistance has spread further into southeast Myanmar and as far east as southern and central Vietnam.

WHO Regional Director Dr. Shin Young-soo told the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific that the situation needs to be addressed urgently before any gains in the area were lost for good.

Artemisinin derivatives are the frontline treatment in malaria cases and the development of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum, the bacteria that causes malaria, is considered to be the biggest challenge facing malaria control efforts.

The WHO first reported emerging artemisinin resistance along the Thailand-Cambodia border eight years ago when studies showed patients there took longer to clear the parasite from their blood.

"We need political commitment at the highest level in affected countries to contain and eliminate these resistant parasites," Dr. Shin said. "A country-by-country approach alone will not work. We must work across borders with the support of the international community to sustain the gains we've made over the past three decades."