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Malaria parasites resist old drugs, need new ones!

Posted by feww on May 29, 2009

What is Malaria?

Malaria is one of the most common infectious diseases  caused by protozoan parasites. It is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, including parts of the Americas, Asia, and Africa.

Malaria parasites are micro-organisms of the genus Plasmodium. Of the more than 100 species of Plasmodium, four species can infect humans in nature.

Plasmodium falciparum is the only species that can cause severe, potentially fatal malaria because it multiples rapidly in the blood, often causing anemia (severe blood loss). Additionally, the parasites can clog small blood vessels. If this complication occurs in the brain, it causes cerebral malaria, which can be fatal.

This 2005 photograph depicted a female Anopheles albimanus mosquito while she was feeding on a human host, thereby, becoming engorged with blood.  Like other species in the genus Anopheles, A. albimanus adults hold the major axis of the body more perpendicularly to the surface of the skin when blood feeding. Anopheles spp. adults also generally feed in the evening, or early morning when it is still dark. This species is a vector of malaria, predominantly in Central America. Photo Credit:   James Gathany/CDC.

Each year infective female Anopheles mosquito infect about 300 million people, killing  about 1.5  million. About ninety percent of malaria-related deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa.  [Only Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria, and they must have been infected through a previous blood meal taken on an infected person.

See also:  Malaria Disease

The life cycle of the malaria parasite in the human body. Image courtesy of the Medical Arts and Photography Branch, NIH.

Researchers say they have found evidence malaria parasites are showing resistance to the artemesinin family of drugs, previously the  most effective drug for treating malaria.

“They say the trend in western Cambodia has to be urgently contained because full-blown resistance would be a global health catastrophe.” BBC reported (!)

Drugs are said to take four to five days, instead of the previous norm of two to three days, to remove  malaria parasites from blood, which is “an early warning sign of emerging resistance to a disease which kills a million people every year.”

“The artemesinin family of drugs is the world’s front-line defence against the most prevalent and deadly form of malaria.” BBC said.

“Two teams of scientists, working on separate clinical trials, have reported seeing the disturbing evidence that the drugs are becoming much less effective.”

“There is particular concern because previous generations of malaria drugs have been undermined by resistance which started in this way, in this part of the world, our correspondent reports.”

This may be true, but that’s how/why new generations of drugs are formulated. Is this another bout of scaremongering?

For the scaremongering to be more effective, the BBC needs three other components involved

  • The World Health Organization
  • A British professor
  • And some lab data

“The World Health Organization warned in 2006 there was a possibility the malaria parasite could develop a resistance to artemesinin drugs, and that there was particular concern about a decreased sensitivity to the drug being seen in South East Asia.” BBC said.

“It urged drug firms to stop selling artemesinin on its own in order to prevent resistance building up.

“Early results from two studies by US and UK teams have both revealed the early stages of resistance.

“Between a third and a half of patients in the US study saw delayed clearance of the malaria parasite.

“In the UK study, patients in the Cambodia arm of the trial took almost twice as long to clear the parasite as a comparison group in Thailand.”

YES! It’s bad, really bad. We need a breakthrough. All you pharmaceuticals out there: Are you designing anything new? Please?

Professor Nick Day, director of the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit,  which is carrying out the UK study said: “Twice in the past, South East Asia has made a gift, unwittingly, of drug resistant parasites to the rest of the world, in particular to Africa,” according to BBC.

“That’s the problem. We’ve had chloroquine and SP (sulfadoxine pyrimethamine) resistance, both of which have caused major loss of life in Africa,” he said in reference to earlier generation anti-malarial drugs.

“If the same thing happens again, the spread of a resistant parasite from Asia to Africa, that will have devastating consequences for malaria control,” he said.

“If it strengthens and spreads, they warn, many millions of lives will be at risk. About half the world’s population faces exposure to the disease.” BBC WARNED (AGAIN).

Where is all of this leading to? Watch out for the next malaria silver bullets from the top ten pharmaceuticals SOON!

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