Posts Tagged 'artemisinin'

Drug Resistant Malaria

Malaria Deaths

The New York Times reports today on the growing resistance to first line antimalarial drug artemisinin in fighting malaria, especially in and around Cambodia:

Combination treatments using artemisinin, an antimalaria drug extracted from a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine, have been hailed in recent years as the biggest hope for eradicating malaria from Africa, where more than 2,000 children die from the disease each day.

Now a series of studies, including one recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine and one due out soon, have cemented a consensus among researchers that artemisinin is losing its potency here and that increased efforts are needed to prevent the drug-resistant malaria from leaving here and spreading across the globe.

Luckily, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is making innovation in malaria vaccines and treatment a priority as reported in Gates’ First Annual Letter:

Today a number of new tools are being developed—better bed nets, better drugs, better insecticides, and a number of vaccine candidates. One of the vaccines will go into the last phase of human trials this year and could be ready for wide use by 2014. None of these tools is perfect. To understand how we should combine them, we brought in an expert in mathematical modeling who is applying a technique called Monte Carlo Simulations. This modeling work, which will show where we can eliminate malaria and where we can just reduce the disease burden, is a wonderful use of advanced mathematics to save lives, and if it goes as well as I expect, we will apply it to other diseases.

Definitely, advances in epidemiological science, vaccine technology, and pharmeceuticals will be crutial to controlling this disease. But, I also think that it is telling that:

The mosquito responsible for transmission of malaria is still endemic in the United States. But modern housing, better access to health care and the use of insecticides have virtually eradicated the disease in wealthier countries.

Once again, poverty is the main structural force shaping the risk of acquiring and dying from malaria. Shouldn’t we address the root cause – inequity – before pumping out technologies? Or, should it be a parallel process?

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