The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the emergence of drug-resistant malaria in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) is a worrying challenge to malaria control and elimination efforts and must be tackled urgently.
Resistance to the front-line anti-malarial drug artemisinin was first confirmed on the Cambodia–Thailand border in 2008 and has now also been detected in Myanmar and Vietnam.
“The emergence of artemisinin resistance could undo the enormous progress made towards malaria control and elimination—and potentially pose a serious global health threat,” says WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-soo. “Key development partners strongly support our efforts. However, we still face a funding gap of at least US$ 450 million over the next three years. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has pledged US$ 100 million and a regional proposal has just been submitted.”
Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are the first-line treatment for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in most endemic countries and are partially responsible for the remarkable recent success in reducing the global malaria burden.
“We are taking the situation very seriously,” says Dr Shin. “If resistance to artemisinin emerges elsewhere, the consequences for global health could be grave.”