Imported resistance has rendered ineffective the two affordable malaria drugs which have been the mainstay of malaria treatment in Africa for forty years, according to experts writing today in the journal Science.
Scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and colleagues from institutions in the USA, South Africa and Thailand believe that mutations causing drug resistance in Plasmodium falciparum (the parasite which causes the most deadly form of malaria) originated in South East Asia and were then imported and spread across Africa – leading to the demise of both chloroquine and sulfadoxine pyrimethamine as effective, affordable treatments.
Dr. Cally Roper of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the lead author of the article, comments: 'Several replacement treatments are already compromised by the emergence of resistance in Asia. We suggest that careful thought should be given to preventing further import of resistant parasites, perhaps by the screening and treatment of passengers travelling from South East Asia or South America to Africa.
'The widespread introduction of artemisinin-based combination therapy could also help to minimise the rate at which resistant parasites can spread. Most importantly, these data demonstrate that antimalarial drug resistance is an international problem that requires a co-ordinated, international response'.