The World Health Organization issued a warning on Thursday that emerging drug-resistant malaria in the Greater Mekong Subregion could undo progress toward malaria control without urgent funding and action.
Resistance to artemisinin, the front-line anti-malarial drug, was first confirmed on the Thailand-Cambodia border in 2008. The drug was also detected in Vietnam and Myanmar.
“The emergence of artemisinin resistance could undo the enormous progress made towards malaria control and elimination—and potentially pose a serious global health threat,” Shin Young-soo, the WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said. “Key development partners strongly support our efforts. However, we still face a funding gap of at least $450 million over the next three years. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has pledged $100 million and a regional proposal has just been submitted.”
Artemisinin-based combination therapies are the first-line treatment for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in most malaria-endemic countries. ACTs are partially responsible for significant progress in reducing the world’s malaria burden.
“We are taking the situation very seriously,” Shin said. “If resistance to artemisinin emerges elsewhere, the consequences for global health could be grave.”