Study in Myanmar Confirms Artemisinin-Resistant Malaria Close to Border with India

The spread of malaria parasites that are resistant to the drug artemisinin, the front-line treatment against malaria infection, into neighboring India would pose a serious threat to the global control and eradication of malaria. If drug resistance spreads from Asia to the African sub-continent, or emerges in Africa independently as we've seen several times before, millions of lives will be at risk. The collection of samples from across Myanmar and its border regions was led by Dr. Kyaw Myo Tun of the Defense Services Medical Research Centre, Napyitaw, Myanmar and coordinated by the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Bangkok, Thailand. The researchers examined whether parasite samples collected at 55 malaria treatment centres across Myanmar carried mutations in specific regions of the parasite's kelch gene (K13), a known genetic marker of artemisinin drug resistance. The team confirmed resistant parasites in Homalin, Sagaing Region located only 25 kilometers from the Indian border. The article describing these findings is to be published online on February 20, 2015 in Lancet Infectious Diseases. The article is titled “Spread of Artemisinin-Resistant Plasmodium falciparum in Myanmar: a Cross-Sectional Survey of the K13 Molecular Marker. "Myanmar is considered the front line in the battle against artemisinin resistance as it forms a gateway for resistance to spread to the rest of the world," says Dr. Charles Woodrow from the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit and senior author of the current study at Oxford University. "With artemisinins we are in the unusual position of having molecular markers for resistance before resistance has spread globally.
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