There is a growing fear in Africa that malaria variants will become resistant to drugs. Scientists reported on Thursday for the first time clinical evidence of the impact of the mutations of the parasite responsible for the disease.
The scientists’ study of children in Rwanda shows for the first time that mutated variants of the parasites survive three days of treatment. A similar reaction was also recorded in Southeast Asia when the parasite began to develop resistance to the main malaria drug artemisinin.
The medication still remains efficient, but according to the researchers extra vigilance is needed in Rwanda and neighboring countries. The study is published in the scientific journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
400,000 dead in one year
In 2019, 400,000 people died from malaria, two thirds of whom are children under the age of five. The vast majority of infections (94 percent of the 229 million infections worldwide) and deaths occur in Africa, data from the World Health Organization shows.
Artemisinin combined with another anti-malarial drug, used since the early 2000s, remains the most effective treatment against malaria. The disease is spread through a parasite (Plasmodium falciparum) that is transmitted by mosquitoes.
Resistance to the medication mainly occurs in parasites that have gene mutation. In 2008, it was first established in Cambodia that the parasite became resistant to artemisinin.