Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. 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.

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

Pint of Science Thailand is back

MORU Bangkok Public Engagement

Live and on-line from Bangkok! Be ready for Thursday 13th May, when Pint of Science Thailand will stream live from Bangkok. Join us via Facebook, YouTube or right here from the Pint of Science Thailand website as we journey from bacterial infections to viruses, discover how clinical trials work, and how scientific development is seen in the eyes of the law!

Innovative strategies for engaging communities with malaria research

MORU Bangkok Public Engagement

For World Malaria Day 2021, F1000 Research Blog spoke to Professor Phaik Yeong Cheah about her research focussed on drama and arts-based community engagement for malaria research, published with Wellcome Open Research.

New project’s child-appropriate primaquine doses could have significant impact on global burden of malaria

MORU Bangkok

On Sunday 25 April, World Malaria Day, the Developing Paediatric Primaquine (DPP) project will launch its website. DPP will produce children-appropriate primaquine doses that could both cut malaria deaths in vulnerable African children by blocking transmission of P. falciparum malaria and reduce P. vivax malaria more widely.

Researchers call for access to Ivermectin for young children

MORU Bangkok Publication Research

Millions of children weighing less than 15kg are currently denied access to Ivermectin treatment due to insufficient safety data being available to support a change to the current label indication. The WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network’s new meta-analysis provides evidence that supports removing this barrier and improving treatment equity.

New report highlights growing concern of vaccine falsification

MORU Bangkok

The Medicine Quality Research Group has published a new Medical Product Quality Report focussing on increasing issues around substandard and falsified (SF) COVID-19 vaccines. With the implementation of the key innovations of COVID-19 vaccines, there have been growing numbers of reports of SF vaccines in the public domain. Given the vital role they will play in ending the pandemic and protecting the global population but severe issues with equitable access, SF vaccines are highly likely to be a growing problem.

Evidence supports WHO recommendation for primaquine combined with ACTs to block Plasmodium falciparum transmission

MORU Bangkok Publication Research

Evidence from a new study, initiated by the Primaquine Roll Out Group and conducted at WWARN, supports the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for use of 0.25mg/kg dose of primaquine (PQ) combined with artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT) to block Plasmodium falciparum transmission.