By Cod Satrusayang
BANGKOK (DPA) — A drug-resistant strain of malaria has spread through South-East Asia and is on the cusp of reaching India, scientists said in a study published Friday.
The study revealed that a strain of malaria, resistant to the most effective antimalarial drug, artemisinin, had reached the border region of Myanmar and India.
The research, carried out by the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit and published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal, found the most deadly form of malaria-causing parasite present in 39% of malaria cases within the region.
Scientists warn that consequences could be dire if the drug resistant malaria reached the sub continent.
"Drug resistant malaria parasites in the 1960s originated in South-East Asia and from there spread through Myanmar to India, and then to the rest of the world where millions of people were killed," said Professor Mike Turner, Head of Infection & Immunobiology at the Wellcome Trust.
"The new research shows that history is repeating itself."
The study also warns that the rate the malaria was spreading was "alarming" and that resistant parasites had been found in Homalin, Myanmar, only 25km from the Indian border.
"Myanmar is considered the frontline in the battle against artemisinin resistance as it forms a gateway for resistance to spread to the rest of the world," said Dr Charles Woodrow from the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit and senior author of the study at Oxford University.
It is estimated that over 600,000 people die from malaria every year, most of them children under the age of five and living in Africa.