Via Reuters AlertNet: Drug-resistant malaria strain in Myanmar is global threat - expert. Excerpt:
The world must help Myanmar fight a drug-resistant strain of malaria that could kill up to 200,000 children a year if it reaches India and Africa, a veteran health worker in the Southeast Asian country has warned.
But Frank Smithuis, former head of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Myanmar, said major donors had excluded the country from their anti-malaria programmes, seriously jeopardising a concerted international effort to contain the epidemic.
Scientists reported this year that a drug-resistant strain had appeared along the Thai-Myanmar border. They found that patients were taking longer to get better when treated with combination therapies containing artemisinin – a drug which is derived from the sweet wormwood shrub and which is recognised as the best treatment against malaria.
The first cases of confirmed artemisinin resistance were found in western Cambodia along the Cambodia-Thailand border in late 2006 according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the past, two other drug-resistant malaria parasites originating in Cambodia have reached Africa after spreading via Myanmar and India. Many migrants travel between Myanmar and India, and between India and Africa.
“Myanmar has the largest malaria burden in the region … the parasite could spread easily,” said Smithuis, who has worked as a doctor in the country since 1994.
“If this artemisinin parasite reaches India and Africa, it is estimated an additional 100,000 to 200,000 children’s lives will be lost per year,” he told AlertNet.