The fight against malaria has just taken a step backwards. As had been widely reported, new drugs that not so long ago were considered to be the most powerful weapons in the anti-malaria arsenal are fast losing their efficacy.
In various parts of southeast Asia, doctors are seeing and increasing resistance among malaria parasites. It is feared that unless there is some major intervention, the drugs could stop working altogether.
The cause is believed to lie in a combination of issues; monotherapy, which is the use of single drugs as opposed to the more effective multi-drug therapies, and something far more sinister – the proliferation of substandard, counterfeit anti-malaria drugs have flooded Asia over the past few years.
Malaria occurs in 90 countries, which is a significant decrease in the 140 affected countries in the 1950s. It threatens about 1.62-billion people, or 29% of the world’s population.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the most common strain of malaria is falciparum malaria. Of the four main human malaria species of the parasite, it is by far the most dangerous because it can be fatal in up to 20% of those infected. The associated statistics make for depressing reading. Each year, throughout the world, there are more than 300-million clinical cases of malaria, which is five times more than all the cases of TB, HIV/Aids, measles and leprosy combined.
Malaria kills more than one million people each year. Most of the victims are children under the age of five and an estimated 900 000 victims are from sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, malaria is responsible for one out of every four childhood deaths on the continent.