The National Malaria Center and World Health Organization yesterday announced that efforts to eliminate malaria resistance on the Thai-Cambodia border seem to be succeeding.
“[A]ll indications suggest that the prevention, screening and treatment measures we have introduced are significantly reducing malaria and could ultimately eliminate the resistant parasites from the area,” National Malaria Center Director Dr Duong Socheat said in a statement issued yesterday.
A screening of 2,782 people in Pailin province found just two cases of plasmodium falciparum-the strain in which artemisin resistance developed there last year.
Since 2007, resistance to artemisin combination therapies-the most effective drug treatment against malaria-began to emerge along the border, raising fears that it could spread across Asia and then to Africa, where 90 percent of worldwide annual malaria deaths occur.
Last year the screened villages-Krochab Krom, Phnom Dambang, Oh Tatus, Oh Preus, Krachab Leu, Rothkros Chhes and Phnom Reang-were among the most malaria-affected in Pailin province.
Community-based malaria workers found 120 cases of plasmodium falciparum in six of these villages last year using simple blood tests, said Dr Najibullah Habib, WHO project manager for artemisinin resistance containment.
During the recent screening, however, samples were sent to the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh for a more sensitive genetic test, he said.
“There has been a drastic decrease…. We felt it confirmed the success of intervention activities by the WHO and NMC-not only screening and treatment but also the provision of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets and free early diagnosis at the village level,” Dr Habib siad.
A significant decline attributed to the $22.5 million cross-border containment project, which is conducting the screening, was seen beyond reductions due to the extended dry season this year and deforestation, he said.
DHA-piperaquine is one artemisin combination therapy that so far remains effective in Pailin, where it is used to treat malaria, he said.
Clinical trials begin next month to make sure DHA-piperaquine is still effective. They will involve sixty cases at three sites in Pailin, Ratanakkiri and Pursat province, said Dr Leng Richea, head of health research at the National Malaria Center.