A new super strain of malaria has been found in parts of Cambodia and parts of Thailand, Laos, and now southern Vietnam – and it’s causing alarm amongst scientists because the parasite causing it cannot be killed with anti-malaria drugs. The biggest fear is that it can spread further and eventually jump to Africa, where 92% of all malaria cases take place- and then further around the world.
Malaria infects over 200 million people a year, particularly children. It is normally treated with artemisinin in combination with piperaquine, however, the parasite has evolved to resist both.
Michael Chew, from the Wellcome Trust medical research charity, said: “The spread of this malaria ‘superbug’ strain, resistant to the most effective drug we have, is alarming and has major implications for public health globally. Around 700,000 people a year die from drug-resistant infections, including malaria. If nothing is done, this could increase to millions of people every year by 2050.
The good news is that in November, top researchers have succeeded in breeding a malaria-resistant form of mosquito using gene-editing. The genetically modified Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes — normal versions of which are a common carrier of the disease in India and the Middle East — can’t carry or pass on the disease. This Californian study, if successful, would provide great news to combat one of the deadliest diseases of all time.