Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Malaria battle rages on

Malaria battle rages on

Malaria battle rages on

3 mosquito net Will Baxter
The World Health Organization is set to launch an ‘emergency response’ this week to combat a strain of malaria that is resistant to the conventional anti-malarial drug artemisinin. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

The increasing prevalence of a strain of malaria resistant to the conventional anti-malarial drug artemisinin, is worrying health experts both here and regionally and prompting a fresh approach.

The World Health Organization tomorrow is set to launch an “emergency response” to combat anti-malarial drug resistance, the organisation said yesterday.

Artemisinin – a traditional Chinese herbal drug – is the most effective way to combat the disease currently. Used in combination with a partner anti-malarial drug such as teraquine, it kills the majority of malarial parasites at the start of treatment while its partner clears up the remainder.

But resistance to the drug is growing in the Greater Mekong Subregion – which includes Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and China’s Yunan and Guangxi provinces.

If the drug-resistant parasite is not contained and spreads elsewhere, “the consequences for global health could be incalculable,” said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.

While parameters of the “emergency response” won’t be made public until tomorrow, WHO malaria scientist and team leader Dr Steven Bjorge said it would focus around bolstering monitoring efforts and taking steps to control the resistance.

“This emergency response is to prolong the life of artemisinin as a treatment or if possible, to eliminate artemisinin resistance as a problem altogether,” added Bjorge.

“If we lose [artemisinin-based treatments], we will have trouble replacing it.”

In Cambodia, artemisinin resistance is most apparent in Pailin and Battambang, said Dr Char Meng Chour, head of the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control (CNM).

In some areas, drug resistance has reached “critical levels”, said Meng Chour, forcing authorities to completely switch to a different anti-malarial drug – malarone.

“We are hoping that by removing the drug from the market, the drug-resistant form of the parasite might die out and we can use artemisinin again.”

In Battambang, the situation is being monitored closely. But provincial health department director Kuy Sok said malarone is only a stop-gap measure, as it is much more expensive than conventional artemisinin treatments.

That said, Cambodia has seen dramatic results in its battle against malaria. In the first three months of this year, only three died from the disease – compared with 22 in the same period last year, according to data from the CNM.

The advance means the Kingdom is on track to eliminating the disease altogether by 2025, said Meng Chour.

Funding for this fight has been secured through to 2015, he said, even though major donor Global Fund announced as of this month it would no longer channel funds though the CNM due to findings of “serious financial wrongdoing” last year. 

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MOM KUNTHEAR

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Thy Sovantha threatens new suit

    Social media celebrity and card-carrying CPP member Thy Sovantha yesterday said she will file a lawsuit against wildlife NGO head Suwanna Gauntlett alleging discrimination after the latter allegedly denied her access to an ecotourism program the group is launching today in Koh Kong province. The

  • Police raid Siem Reap party, arrest 10 foreigners over ‘pornographic’ images

    A group of 10 foreign tourists appeared in court today after being arrested for producing “pornographic” photos in Siem Reap town on Thursday, while dozens more were detained temporarily and let go after being lectured on their behaviour, according to authorities. A report posted to the

  • Hun Sen’s in-law removed from RCAF after cockfighting rings raided

    Thai Phany, the nephew-in-law of Prime Minister Hun Sen who is accused of running two large cockfighting rings, has been removed as a general in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. Phany, formerly a one-star brigadier general, was removed by royal decree on December 19, according to

  • Government approves plan to relocate Phnom Penh’s airport

    The government has signed off on a proposal to build a new airport to serve Phnom Penh and has earmarked land in Kandal province for the $1.5 billion project. A new international airport to replace the existing Phnom Penh International Airport will be constructed on partially