Blood test identifies people with resistant malaria

By Clare Wilson

 

Our old foe malaria is becoming resistant to artemisinin – the world’s most potent antimalarial drug. But it may not be too late to turn the tide.

A large study has scoped out the extent of resistance in South-East Asia and shown that a blood test can quickly identify people with resistant malaria. That’s crucial information for any attempt to stop its spread, including an ambitious plan to blanket treat the entire population in the drug-resistant heartland.

“If you are planning to create a firewall around resistance, it is essential to know the edges,” says Nick White of Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand.

Resistance to antimalarial drugs can emerge anywhere they are used, but curiously it has begun in one region a disproportionate number of times. That area is the Greater Mekong – encompassing forests in Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Bangladesh.

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