A new study has found that Malaria parasites resistant to essential drugs have spread to Laos and other parts of Southeast Asia.
A group of researchers from the U.K. and Thailand analyzed samples from malaria patients across Southeast Asia and found that such parasites have moved from Cambodia to Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, according to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.
In particular, the parasites are resistant to a combination of two drugs, namely artemisinin and piperaquine, which was introduced in Cambodia in 2008, the BBC reported on July 23.
The researchers found that the first cases of the parasite mutating and developing resistance to both drugs in 2013.
The BBC quoted another study published in the same journal as saying that half of the patients were not being cured with standard therapy.
It added, however, there are alternative drugs that can be used instead, such as using different drugs alongside artemisinin or using a combination of three drugs to overcome resistance.
The broadcaster also noted that the findings will not effect much change in regard to people’s day-to-day life in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
“Tackling malaria is about more than just picking the right treatment after infection. All the efforts around controlling the mosquitoes that spread the disease will not change,” the BBC said.
Laos has made significant progress in eliminating malaria and achieved a steady decline in malaria cases over the past decade.
The number of malaria cases in Laos has dropped by 90 percent in recent years, down from a peak of 50,000 cases during an outbreak in 2014 to 9,000 cases in 2018, according to The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which has been one of key players to support Laos’s efforts to eliminate malaria.
The U.S. has contributed more than $1.9 million to support the Lao government in its fight against malaria, providing and distributing mosquito nets, diagnostic tests, and anti-malarial treatments to the Lao people.
As the latest contribution, USAID provided a total of 174,000 additional mosquito nets to Laos, according to a statement by USAID on July 17.
“These mosquito nets will be distributed to families in rural areas of the southern province of Champasack, where the number of malaria cases remains high,” USAID said.
In 2017, there were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria in 87 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The disease kills about 435,000 people every year – most of them are children under the age of five.