Laos, WHO take steps to combat artemisinin-resistant malaria

The Lao People's Democratic Republic, with assistance from the World Health Organization, recently stepped up efforts to combat artemisinin-resistant malaria following reports of a resurgence of the disease in several provinces in the country.

Representatives from the World Health Organization met with authorities in the Laotian capital of Vientiane in April to assist in identifying priority areas for intervention to achieve malaria elimination. Laos is currently preparing to finalize its National Malaria Strategic Plan 2015-2020.

The WHO recommended including cross-border collaboration in the plan, as Laos is adjacent to five countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion and malaria is prevalent in the remote and forested areas along those borders.

Laos was the fifth country in the Greater Mekong Subregion to confirm strains of malaria resistant to artemisinin.

"The sharp rise in cases and deaths is linked to migration patterns, with an increase in the number of people flocking to work in areas of large infrastructural development projects," Bouasy Hongvanthong, the director of the Centre for Malaria Parasitology and Entomology, said.

Laos experienced a significant reduction of malaria cases between 2000-2010 and was on track to meet the World Health Assembly goal of reducing the malarial burden by 75 percent. The country began to see an uptick of malaria cases in late 2011, however, and recorded 44 deaths related to the disease in 2012. In 2013, malaria killed 28 people in Laos.