Scientists have found new evidence that resistance to the front-line treatments for malaria is increasing.
They have confirmed that resistant strains of the malaria parasite on the border between Thailand and Burma, 500 miles (800km) away from previous sites.
Researchers say that the rise of resistance means the effort to eliminate malaria is “seriously compromised”.
The details have been published in The Lancet medical journal.
For many years now the most effective drugs against malaria have been derived from the Chinese plant, Artemisia annua. It is also known as sweet wormwood.
In 2009 researchers found that the most deadly species of malaria parasites, spread by mosquitoes, were becoming more resistant to these drugs in parts of western Cambodia.
This new data confirms that these Plasmodium falciparum parasites that are infecting patients more than 500 miles away on the border between Thailand and Burma are growing steadily more resistant.
The researchers from the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit measured the time it took the artemisinin drugs to clear parasites from the bloodstreams of more than 3,000 patients. Over the nine years between 2001 and 2010, they found that drugs became less effective and the number of patients showing resistance rose to 20%.
Prof Francois Nosten, who is part of the research team that has carried out the latest work, says the development is very serious.
“It would certainly compromise the idea of eliminating malaria that’s for sure and will probably translate into a resurgence of malaria in many places,” he said.
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