NY Travel Clinic

Malaria Super-Bugs Spreading Fast

It has been known for some time that the bugs causing malaria were resistant to some of the older antimalarial drugs. Now a new study indicates that the problem is even worse than anticipated. There are new malarial super bugs in SE Asia that have developed resistance to multiple antimalarial drugs and this is threatening progress against the control of the disease. Studies show that these super malarial parasites have fended off all currently available treatments including piperaquine and artemisinin. This has allowed them to spread across Northeastern Thailand, Cambodia, and Southern Laos.

Travel medicine experts feel that the race against malaria is fast being lost. Resistance to artemisinin has allowed the malarial parasite to thrive and is making it almost impossible to control the disease.

There is also concern that these super malarial parasites may spread further west towards India and even Africa, and this could lead to a global public health emergency.

At the moment nearly 50% of the world’s population is at risk for malaria and unfortunately, the majority of victims are children under the age of 5 living in some of the poorest parts of Africa like the sub-Sahara.

Over the past 2 decades, significant progress had been made against mosquito-borne disease and both the morbidity and mortality has decreased. But the infection still kills close to 420,000 individuals each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Infectious disease experts state that the emergence of multiple drug resistance by the malarial parasite is probably one of the biggest threats to progress in Asia.

Nearly 50 years ago, chloroquine-resistant malarial parasites also spread rapidly throughout Asia and into Africa, leading to a resurgence of malaria and caused millions of death, especially in the vulnerable and poor people. This led to the replacement of chloroquine by sulphadiazine-pyrimethamine but soon the malarial parasites developed resistance to this new formula. There is apprehension and fear that this same pattern of resistance and resurgence has occurred again.

The WHO has stepped up its efforts to control malaria in Asia. The newer super bug mosquito strains are not only more durable but also spread more widely and rapidly. In the meantime, people who live in SE Asia are being told to prevent mosquito bites by using mosquito nets, wearing appropriate garments, and preventing the collection of stagnant water near their homes.