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Drug-resistant malaria concern for government, WHO

A consortium of health officials from Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos met in Siem Reap on Friday to develop a strategy on how to contain drug-resistant strains of malaria.

Although efforts to combat the disease by the government’s National Malaria Center appear to have proved successful country-wide, Chor Meng Chuor, director of the National Center for Parasitological Entomology, said the government was increasingly concerned about the forested areas fringing the country’s border with Thailand.

“Fighting [drug-resistant malaria] is a huge concern for us. We have educated the community via the media, television and radio and our community education programs, including urging people to sleep in mosquito nets,” he said, adding that the Cambodia model was going to be used in the neighbouring countries to combat drug-resistant malaria.

Chuor said that in the first seven months of this year, Cambodia had 42,000 cases of malaria and at least 30 deaths – a decrease of 23 per cent compared with last year, which had 55,000 cases in the corresponding period.

In Pailin, however, about 26 per cent of malaria cases were drug-resistant in 2012, up from 10 per cent in 2010.

World Health Organization epidemiologist Steven Bjorge said it was crucial to keep in mind that the overall number of cases had dropped and monitoring of the disease had increased.

Bjorge said Falciparum, the prevalent species along the Thai-Cambodian border, had shown a high resistance to a number of drugs.

“It is monitored very closely by the WHO, and is a changing situation. You can’t just sit on one drug. We have a very good idea of which drugs are resistant, and drugs are changed following a very strict protocol,” he said.

Resistance to drugs had gradually risen, not only on the border but also in other parts of Thailand, he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Claire Knox and Sen David at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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