Drug-resistant malaria is spreading across Burma and has reached the Indian border, threatening to render conventional medicines redundant in the global fight against the disease.
Doctors are concerned that if not addressed the strain of malaria could spread throughout India and reach Africa, which accounts for 90 per cent of the world’s malaria cases, causing a major public health crisis.
In a study published in the Lancet journal, researchers discovered that resistance to artemisinin, a vital drug used to combat malaria, has extended from southern Burma after first being recorded in Cambodia.
“Myanmar is considered the frontline 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 lead author of the study.
Now drug-resistant K13 mutant genes from malarial parasites have been found in the blood of people with malaria in the north and east of Burma.
10 Deadliest Animals In The World
10 Deadliest Animals In The World
1/10 10: Poison Dart Frog
They might look cute, but the backs of the Amazonian poison dart frog ooze a slimy neurotoxin to keep predators away. Each frog produces enough of the toxin to kill 10 humans.
2/10 9: Polar Bear
The strength of a polar bear is enough to decapitate a human being with a single swipe of the paw.
3/10 8: African Elephant
The brute force of an elephant is unrivalled by any land mammal. Weighing in around 16,000lb on average, they are responsible for around 500 human deaths each year.
4/10 7: Cape Buffalo
Cape Buffalos charge head-on with their razor-sharp horns when confronted with a predator - all 1,500lb of them. And the problem is, they tend to do so as a herd.
5/10 6: Crocodile
The stealth and combined strength of a crocodile allows it to lie in the water undetected, before it strikes, drags its pray underwater, barrel rolls and dismembers it.
6/10 5: African Lion
These big cats are ruthlessly agile, armed with razor-sharp teeth and talons and near-perfect hunters.
7/10 4: Great White Shark
These kings of the sea have 3,000 teeth with which to tear their pray to shreds. On average, are 15ft long and 5,000lb, and can detect a drop of blood in 25 gallons of water.
8/10 3: Australian Box Jellyfish
Each tentacle has 5,000 stinging cells and enough toxin to kill 60 humans. Each jellyfish has 60 tentacles each at 15 ft long. That's a lot of killing power for an animal the size of a salad bowl.
9/10 2: Asian Cobra
It might not be the most poisonous snake, but thanks to its unique spit and strike attack technique, the Asian Cobra is responsible for more human deaths than any other snake on the planet.
10/10 1: Mosquito
Tiny but deadly, mosquitoes carry and transfer malaria causing parasites to humans. As a result, they cause on average 2million human deaths a year, making the insect one of the world's deadliest creatures. Aside from human beings, of course.
The mutant genes were also discovered in nearly half of the samples taken from people just 25km from the Indian border.
“The identification of the K13 markers of resistance has transformed our ability to monitor the spread and emergence of artemisinin resistance,” said Professor Philippe Guerin, director of the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network and coauthor of the article.
“However, this study highlights that the pace at which artemisinin resistance is spreading or emerging is alarming. We need a more vigorous international effort to address this issue in border regions,” he added.
Professor Mike Turner, head of infection and immunobiology at the Wellcome Trust, said: “Drug-resistant malaria parasites in the 1960s originated in South-east Asia and from there spread through Myanmar to India, and then to the rest of the world where it killed millions of people.
"The new research shows that history is repeating itself with parasites resistant to artemisinin drugs, the mainstay of modern malaria treatment, now widespread in Myanmar. We are facing the imminent threat of resistance spreading into India, with thousands of lives at risk.”Reuse content