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: WHO hopeful drug-resistant malaria can be contained

More information: The full paper can be viewed at: www.malariajournal.com/content/11/1/131/abstract

Related Stories

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.

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 ...

Contrasting patterns of malaria drug resistance found between humans and mosquitoes

November 15, 2011
A study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute and their Zambian colleagues detected contrasting patterns of drug resistance in malaria-causing parasites taken from both humans and mosquitoes ...

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.

Recommended for you

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

0 comments

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.