Study: Drug Resistant Malaria Could Be A Global Threat

The eradication and global control of malaria could be in jeopardy if the spread of malaria P falciparum parasites that are resistant to artemisinin continues to spread throughout Asia and into India, according to a recent study.

If the drug resistance manifests independently in Africa or spreads form Asia to the African sub-continent, millions of lives would be at risk for infection, according to researchers.

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Between January 2013 and September 2014, researchers conducted a cross-sectional survey at malaria treatment centers (55 sites) throughout 10 administrative regions in Myanmar and in border regions in Bangladesh and Thailand.

Overall, 39% of 940 samples possessed a K13-propeller mutation, signifying a resistance to artemisinin.

By creating predictive maps of the region, the researchers were able to estimate the extent of artemisinin resistance in the area based on the presence of K13 mutations. They found that in large areas of Myanmar, more than 10% of malaria might be drug resistant.

“Artemisinin resistance extends across much of Myanmar. We recorded P falciparum parasites carrying K13-propeller mutations at high prevalence next to the northwestern border with India,” said the study’s authors.

“Appropriate therapeutic regimens should be tested urgently and implemented comprehensively if spread of artemisinin resistance to other regions is to be avoided,” they said.

The complete study is published in the February issue of Lancet Infectious Diseases.

-Michelle Canales Butcher


Tun KM, Imwong M, Lwin KM, et al. Spread of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in Myanmar: a cross-sectional survey of the K13 molecular marker. Lancet Infect Dis. 2015 February [epub ahead of print] doi: