Recent reports of “Super Malaria” is spreading in Southeast Asia.
It emerged in Cambodia and has spread to Thailand, Laos and now in Southern Vietnam.
Dr Michael Chew, from the Wellcome Trust medical research charity said:
“The spread of this malaria ‘superbug’ strain, resistant to the most effective drug we have, is alarming and has major implications for public health globally.”
The standard treatment of malaria is the combination of artemisinin and piperaquine. The emerging strain has already developed a resistance to artemisinin and the disease evolved again and gaining resistance to piperaquine. Therefore, it is feared that this strain of malaria has no other treatment options.
In addition, The head of Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok, Professor Arjen Dondrop informed the BBC:
“We think it is a serious threat”
“It is alarming that this strain is spreading so quickly through the whole region and we fear it can spread further [ and eventually] jump to Africa.”
Furthermore, if resistance to the drugs appeared in Africa, where 92 % of malaria cases are, devastation would ensue.
The researchers in The Lancet Infectious Diseases wrote on a letter that there have been “alarming rates of failure” in treatment.
Prof Dondorp said the treatment was failing around one third in Vietnam and in some regions of Cambodia the failure rate was closer to 60%.
In addition Prof Dondorp said: “It’s a race against the clock- we have to eliminate it before malaria becomes untreatable again and we see a lot of deaths.”
What does this mean for travellers? Still take malaria tablets recommended by your doctor and most importantly develop habits of prevention against mosquito bites!
If you are travelling overseas there are simple steps to reduce your risk of acquiring malaria:
- Use an insect repellents with high DEET
- Check with a doctor if you need to take prevention tablets
- Wear clothing with high coverage- covering your arms and legs
- Keep windows and doors closed
- Use mosquito net when sleeping
- Use mosquito head nets