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No malaria drug resistance in Africa yet

01 June 2012, 13:12 Trudy Mbaluku

Medical Experts have assured the public that there is no resistance to Artemisinin Combination Therapy ( ACTs), the latest anti-malarial drug Africa.

A team of health experts drawn from East and Central Africa regions On Wednesday 23 refuted the claims and confirmed that the drugs were still effective.

Speaking at the Anti malaria Drug Resistance stakeholders meeting held at a hotel in Nairobi, Dr Willis Akhwale, Head of the Division of Disease Control and Prevention, Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, stated that researchers have not identified or confirmed any cases of antimalarial resistance in Africa to date.

This was in response to media reports that the malaria causing parasite has become resistant to the drug.

The doctors however, admitted that  malaria drug resistance has been recorded in South East Asia in the border regions of Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar.

The medical experts warned that Africa needs to be watchful as the conditions that support ACTs resistance are favorable in Africa.

 “We cannot be complacent and assume that resistance will not occur in Africa.

“Mosquitoes don’t need a visa”. The risk that antimalarial drugs resistance will spread is significant, due to increased trans-continental flights.  East Africa is particularly vulnerable, due being a  major regional trade hub in the Eastern African region”, added Dr Akhwale.

He (give name) argued that recent media reports of the phenomenon were inaccurate representations of published research findings.

Dr Akhwale argued that Africa must be prepared for a possible emergence of antimalarial drug resistance. He called upon for collaboration between scientists,research institutions, policymakers, and national malaria control divisions in response to the health threat.

The health experts identified self medication, sub-standard drugs, counterfeits and inadequate access to ACTs as some of the challenges facing eradication of the menace in Africa.

Dr. Joaquim Da Silva, Coordinator, Roll Back Malaria-East Africa Regional Network (RBM-EARN) said that overdose or underdose of drugs used to treat malaria contributes to drug resistance. He advised that patients should take the full dosage as prescribed by a medical doctor.

According to recent findings published by Lancet Infectious Diseases, approximately 42 percent of malaria drugs examined in Southeast Asia were fake, while around 33 percent of antimalarial drugs in sub-Saharan Africa contained either too much or too little of the active ingredient

Dr Gaurvika Nayyar, the Lead researcher in the study, said"3.3 billion people are at risk of malaria, which is endemic in 106 countries. Between 655,000 and 1.2 million people die every year from Plasmodium falciparum infection. Much of this morbidity and mortality could be avoided if drugs available to patients were efficacious, high quality and used correctly."

The researchers analyzed data from antimalarial drugs in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and found that in seven Southeast Asian countries, about a third of the 1,437 samples of seven malaria drugs analyzed were fake, over a third failed chemical testing, and almost 50 percent were not packaged correctly.

According to the study in 21 sub-Saharan countries around a fifth of the 2,500 samples tested were found to be fake and over a third failed chemical testing.

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