Despite recent advances in malaria vaccinations the fight against the, often fatal, disease has “been compromised” due to increasing resistance to current treatments.
Currently the most effective treatments are a drug derived from sweet wormwood, but in 2009 researchers found people in Cambodia that had become resistant to the drug. The research continued as many hoped that it was a difference in genes that made individuals resistant to the drug.
Recent evidence has shown that people, 500 miles away, in Burma and Thailand are also becoming resistant to the gene, showing that there is a resistant strain of the parasite Plasmodium falciparum. If this strain were to develop or “over-spill” into Africa, where the majority of malaria deaths occur then it could set the fight against malaria back by years, perhaps even more than a decade.
There are new vaccines being developed, two of which were hailed as the key to wiping out malaria at the end of 2011. However the vaccines have been developed for the non-resistant strains and there is now concern they may not be able to wipe out malaria in areas where non-resistant malaria is yet to be seen.
These new vaccines are still in the trial phase, but there are no new drugs even close to clinical trials that could be used to treat malaria which means if this strain does spread millions could die in Africa and Asia.
Scientists are still hoping for a genetic link between resistant strains, whether that is in people or the virus itself remains to be seen but until a new drug can be developed, identification is the only form of attack.