Drug-resistant malaria cause of concern for SA

2015-04-29 00:00

THE emergence of drug-resistant malaria in parts of south-east Asia is of great concern to South Africa, a medical scientist tells Health24.

It can take just one mosquito bite for someone to become infected with malaria and with drug-resistant malaria present in parts of south-east Asia, it could pose serious risks for South Africa.

While there are no cases of drug-resistant malaria in South Africa, it still remains a great concern, according to Dr Jaishree Raman from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

Dr Raman, who is a medical scientist working in the parasitology reference laboratory at the NICD, has a keen interest in anti-malarial drug resistance.

She pointed out that the NICD conducts routine surveillance for anti-malarial drug resistance to the artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) used in SA.

“Fortunately, artemisinin resistant parasites have not yet been detected in Africa. Therefore the artemisinin-based combination, artemether-lumefantrine (sold as Co-artem) recommended for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in South Africa, is still extremely effective, provided the correct dose is taken together with milk,” Dr Raman told Health24.

“To ensure South Africa does not experience an artemisinin resistant malaria epidemic, the routine surveillance for molecular markers thought to be associated with artemisinin resistance is conducted by the NICD,” she said.

She said genetic studies have shown that anti-malarial drug resistant parasites have spread outwards from south-east Asia through the Indian sub-continent into Africa causing high levels of malaria related morbidity and mortality in the recent past.

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