For the first time, there is clinical evidence that drug-resistant variants of malaria have taken root in Africa. That is the conclusion reached by researchers in a study presented in the medical journal The Lancet.
Experts have long worried that the parasite that causes malaria and spread through mosquitoes will mutate and develop resistance to the drugs used to treat the disease.
The risk is considered to be greatest in Africa, where over 90 percent of all the world’s deaths linked to malaria occurred in 2019. Over 400,000 people died of malaria that year and over two thirds of these were children.
The new study now published in The Lancet shows that the standard treatment of malaria is not as effective in children who have been infected with a mutated variant of the parasite. The children were simply sick longer than usual.
– Our study shows that resistant variants are becoming more common, says the study’s lead author Aline Uwimana, who is a researcher at Rwanda’s biomedical center in Kigali.
200 children were included in the study
The study monitored 200 sick children, between six months and five years old, who received a three-day standard treatment with the malaria medicine artemisinin. The researchers followed the children for 28 days and 15 percent of them still carried traceable parasites three days after treatment.
“New data suggests that we are heading for clinically significant artemisinin resistance in Africa,” said Philip Rosenthall, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, in a written comment to The Lancet.
The researchers believe that further research is needed immediately in Rwanda, where the study was conducted, and in the surrounding countries.