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Development Of New Malaria Drugs ‘Deserves Our Complete Support’

Writing in The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog, Colin Sutherland, head of immunology and infection at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, reviews recent studies on the effectiveness of malaria drugs used in Asia and Africa, examining whether they show drug resistance is increasing. “Clear answers are yet to emerge but there is growing concern that the parasites may have started developing processes that may one day make them fully resistant to artemisinins,” he writes, adding, “Whereas some have already labeled this phenomenon ‘resistance’ there is as yet little evidence of a negative effect on public health: the combination drugs, by and large, are still working in the Mekong countries.” Sutherland highlights a Guardian live chat from July that “addressed recently observed changes in the effectiveness of malaria drugs in Cambodia and neighboring countries,” and he discusses recently published research from Mbita, Kenya.

“Do these findings mean we are now seeing resistance to [artemisinin combination therapy (ACT)] in Africa? I do not think this is the case,” he continues, adding, “Nevertheless, there is concern that slow clearance is the first step along the pathway towards malaria parasites becoming fully resistant to artemisinins.” “The effort to accelerate development of the next generation of malaria drugs therefore deserves our complete support,” he states, concluding, “The drug development pipeline is expensive and time-consuming, but we cannot afford to let this process falter as we seek to control malaria across the globe” (10/22).