Southeast Asia has historically been a graveyard for malaria drugs.
In the 1960s, malaria parasites in Thailand learned how to fend off chloroquine, a first-line malaria drug. That resistance eventually spread around the globe.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the loss of chloroquine cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
A new study finds a disturbing trend in the battle against malaria. There are highly effective drugs called artemisinins — and now resistant malaria is turning up in parts of Myanmar, the reclusive country also known as Burma, where it hadn’t been seen before.
The study was conducted by Dr. Charles Woodrow and his colleagues at the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok.
“Particularly toward the north, resistance is certainly present as we highlight and now lies quite close to the Northwest border with India,” Woodrow says.
There’s concern that if the resistance takes root in India, it could quickly jump to other parts of the world.
Studies like this one in Myanmar show that artemisinin resistance is growing. And this is a huge problem, because malaria, according to the World Health Organization, sickens almost 200 million people a year and kills roughly 600,000.