Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

A highly drug resistant malaria "superbug" from western Cambodia is now present in southern Vietnam, leading to alarming failure rates for dihydroartemisinin (DHA)-piperaquine — Vietnam’s national first-line malaria treatment, leading malaria scientists warn.

Plasmodium parasite close-up

The spread of this dominant artemisinin drug resistant P falciparum C580Y mutant malaria parasite lineage across the entire Mekong Sub-region is a serious threat to malaria control and eradication efforts, the scientists say in a letter published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

"A single mutant strain of very drug resistant malaria has now spread from western Cambodia to north-eastern Thailand, southern Laos and into southern Vietnam and caused a large increase in treatment failure of patients with malaria," says letter co-author Oxford Prof. Arjen Dondorp, Head of Malaria and Deputy Head of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Thailand, Asia.

“This could result in an important increase in malaria transmission in these countries and severely jeopardize their malaria elimination efforts,” said Prof. Dondorp. “We hope this evidence will be used to reemphasize the urgency of malaria elimination in the Mekong sub-region before falciparum malaria becomes close to untreatable.”

The spread of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum and the subsequent loss of partner antimalarial drugs in the Greater Mekong sub-region presents one of the greatest threats to the control and elimination of malaria, the letter authors say.

“We are losing a dangerous race. The spread of this malaria “superbug” has caused an alarming rise in treatment failures forcing changes in drug policy and leaving few options for the future,” said said letter co-author and Mahidol and Oxford University Prof Sir Nicholas White. “We need to tackle this public health emergency urgently.”

Michael Chew from Wellcome's Infection and Immunobiology team 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. Around 700,000 people a year die from drug-resistant infections, including malaria. If nothing is done, this could increase to millions of people every year by 2050. Efforts to help track resistance to drugs are vital for improving diagnosis, treatment, and control of drug resistant infections."

Similar stories

COPCOV investigators meet, and prepare to submit for publication

On 15-16 Dec, COPCOV investigators from around the world met in Bangkok to review study results and plan next steps. Led by co-PIs Prof Sir Nick White and Dr Will Schilling, and funded by the Wellcome Trust, the MORU-led COPCOV ( Chloroquine prevention of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the healthcare setting) is the world’s largest multinational trial of COVID-19 prevention.

Researchers call for antimicrobial resistance surveillance to be improved

The number of studies reporting antimicrobial resistance (AMR) data has increased in Africa, South and South East Asia according to new research in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Are we getting tafenoquine dosing right?

Researchers analysing clinical trial data for the new antimalarial drug tafenoquine find that higher doses are needed to cure reliably vivax malaria infection.

Constant genetic surveillance necessary to keep multidrug-resistant malaria parasite strains in check, study finds

Continually monitoring malaria parasite populations is necessary to prevent outbreaks of previously dormant multidrug-resistant malaria strains, say University of Oxford researchers. Multidrug-resistant malaria parasite strains can rapidly grow or collapse in response to public health policy changes, say the researchers in a study published today in The Lancet.

Bacterial infections linked to one in eight global deaths, according to GRAM study

Data showing 7.7 million deaths from 33 bacterial infections can guide measures to strengthen health systems, particularly in low-income settings

Combating drug-resistant malaria

MORU research has contributed to strategies to eliminate malaria in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, helping to prevent the spread of drug-resistant malaria and improving health provision and outcomes for remote communities.