Study finds early signs of malaria drug resistance in Africa

April 27, 2012

Africa's deadliest malaria parasite has shown resistance in lab tests to one of the most powerful drugs on the market -- a warning of possible resistance to follow in patients, scientists said Friday.

Researchers in London found resistance to artemether in test tube analysis of blood from 11 of 28 patients who had fallen ill after travelling in countries mainly in sub-Saharan Africa -- what they said was a "statistically significant" result.

Artemether is one of the most effective drugs in the artemisinin group most commonly used in malaria cocktails known as ACTs.

"Resistance in a test tube usually leads to resistance at some stage down the line in patients," study leader Sanjeev Krishna told AFP of the findings published in BioMed Central publishers' Malaria Journal.

"The question is how far down the line."

The study did not look at the patients' actual response to drugs, and "what that might mean in terms of , we have yet to assess. We don't know."

A statement said the resistance was caused by in a parasite transmitted by infected mosquitoes, and meant that "the best weapons against malaria could become obsolete."

The laboratory tests on the parasite, which causes the deadliest form of malaria and is responsible for 90 percent of deaths, showed artemether's effectiveness reduced by about half in the infected samples.

"This study confirms our fears of how the parasite is mutating to develop resistance," said Krishna, adding the "occurred relatively recently".

" could eventually become a devastating problem in Africa, and not just in east Asia where most of the world is watching for resistance."

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 90 percent of people killed by malaria every year.

The (WHO) said Tuesday it was optimistic drug-resistant malaria that has emerged along Thailand's borders with Cambodia and Myanmar could be contained within the region.

While global campaigning and wide distributions of mosquito nets have helped curb malaria, it is still regarded as the worst parasitic disease in the world.

The WHO says 655,000 people died of malaria in 2010, making it the world's fifth biggest killer in low-income countries.

"What we should be doing is to use the drugs we have as effectively as we can, to make sure they are working and to stop using combinations that are not working," said Krishna.

And the focus should be on monitoring and further research.

"We must be very alert to the risk of there being increased treatment failures," the scientist warned.

"We need to know more, we need to know it fairly quickly."

Explore further: New artemisinin-based treatment against malaria promising

More information: The full paper can be viewed at:

Related Stories

New artemisinin-based treatment against malaria promising

November 8, 2011

For some time now, artemisinin, derived from a Chinese herb, has been the most powerful treatment available against malaria. To avoid the malaria parasite becoming resistant, the World Health Organisation (WHO) strongly recommends ...

Fake malaria drugs a growing problem: experts

December 5, 2011

Fake or poor quality malaria drugs are boosting resistance in parts of southeast Asia, a problem that is likely to worsen unless tighter regulations are adopted, US experts said Monday.

WHO hopeful drug-resistant malaria can be contained

April 24, 2012

The World Health Organisation said Tuesday it was optimistic drug-resistant malaria that has emerged along Thailand's borders with Cambodia and Myanmar could be contained within the region.

Recommended for you

Monkeys in Asia harbor virus from humans, other species

November 19, 2015

When it comes to spreading viruses, bats are thought to be among the worst. Now a new study of nearly 900 nonhuman primates in Bangladesh and Cambodia shows that macaques harbor more diverse astroviruses, which can cause ...

One-step test for hepatitis C virus infection developed

November 14, 2015

UC Irvine Health researchers have developed a cost-effective one-step test that screens, detects and confirms hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. Dr. Ke-Qin Hu, director of hepatology services, will present findings at the ...

Computer model reveals deadly route of Ebola outbreak

November 10, 2015

Using a novel statistical model, a research team led by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health mapped the spread of the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, providing the most detailed picture to date ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.