Parasites less susceptible to artemisinin now affect several Asian countries
Resistance to the top malaria drug has fanned out from its origins in Cambodia to other parts of Southeast Asia. A report in the July 31 New England Journal of Medicine establishes that the scourge has found a way to skirt the effects of artemisinin and its chemical derivatives, the best available antimalarial drugs. Scientists suspect that a genetic mutation in the parasite in these harder-to-treat cases underpins the resistance.
“I’m concerned,” says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID, in Bethesda, Md. “Artemisinin derivatives used in combination with other drugs have been game changers.”
There were 207 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2012, the World Health Organization estimates, killing 627,000 people, most of them children under age 5. There is no approved vaccine against the protozoan malaria parasite,