Malaria: Resistant pathogens worry the WHO

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World Malaria Day: WHO warns against the spread of resistant malaria pathogens

On World Malaria Day yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as numerous national health authorities and aid organizations on site, pointed out the future challenges in the fight against malaria and warned against the reduced availability of funds in the fight against malaria in view of the increasing occurrence of resistant pathogens.

After the fight against malaria was named as one of the United Nations' (UN) Millennium Development Goals in 2000, thanks to the increasing availability of funds - partly also from private donors, such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates - there were clear successes in the fight against malaria worldwide become. Although significant progress in malaria prevention and treatment has also been achieved in sub-Saharan Africa, which is heavily affected, the experts now see this positive development in jeopardy. Because in Southeast Asia, resistance of the malaria pathogen to the available drugs is increasing, according to the WHO statement.

660,000 malaria deaths per year "We have made great strides in reducing the incidence and deaths of malaria in recent years, but progress could now be at risk," said the WHO expert on HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and rare tropical diseases , Dr. Hiroki Nakatani. "We are increasingly concerned about the signs from the Southeast Asia region that the malaria parasites have become resistant to some of the drugs that have contributed to such progress," said Dr. Nakatani. According to the WHO, transmissions of malaria from 99 countries have recently been reported, with around 3.3 billion people living in them. The World Health Organization experts estimate that an estimated 219 million people worldwide were infected and 660,000 people died from malaria in 2010. Children under the age of five are particularly often affected.

Risk of resistance to the malaria medication Although these numbers of malaria infections and deaths still seem alarmingly high, they represent a significant reduction compared to the year 2000. The improved availability of the so-called artemisinin-based combination therapies plays a decisive role here . With the help of the active ingredient artemisinin, hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved. However, the malaria pathogens (so-called plasmodia) have apparently gradually adjusted to the drugs containing artemisinin. A comparable development took place in the 1960s, according to the WHO, when the pathogens became resistant to the malaria drug chloroquine, which was common at the time. The result was a significant increase in malaria deaths. Even then, the resistant pathogens first appeared in Southeast Asia and then spread to Africa.

Spread of resistant malaria pathogens feared
If the malaria pathogens now identified in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam should spread to Africa, this would be a major setback in the fight against malaria, according to all experts. "The consequences of spreading artemisinin resistance would be catastrophic," emphasized the director of the WHO malaria program, Dr. Robert Newman. "We have to act now to protect Southeast Asia today and Sub-Saharan Africa tomorrow," Newman said. In a press release on World Malaria Day, the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon, also highlighted the challenges of increasing resistance to malaria pathogens and the consequences of the spread of the pathogens in sub-African countries Sahara warned. To this day, a child dies of malaria every minute in Africa.

Emergency Plan Against Resistant Malaria Pathogens The Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Dr. Mark Dybul said: "We need to invest more to fight resistance." Meanwhile, the WHO has started an emergency plan to contain resistant malaria pathogens. For example, this provides for the complete elimination of poor-quality anti-malaria medication and oral artemisinin-based monotherapy, as this would impair the effectiveness of the treatment and increase the risk of developing resistance. "We are at a turning point. What appears to be a local threat could easily get out of control and have serious consequences for global health, ”warned Dr. Newman.

Lack of financial resources to combat malaria The World Health Organization also sees a significant problem in the funding of malaria control. Up to $ 350 million additional funds are required for the period 2013 to 2015 in order to successfully contain and completely eliminate the resistant pathogens. In order to provide "universal access to malaria prevention, diagnostics and treatment" to everyone worldwide by 2020, $ 5.1 billion would be required annually. But today the funds made available are only around $ 2.3 billion -Dollar. Adequate medical care for all infected people cannot be guaranteed and malaria prevention suffers because, for example, the money for the purchase of mosquito nets is missing. Here it becomes clear that the ambitious determination of development goals will not help if the required financial resources are not subsequently raised. (fp)

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Image: Gerd Altmann /

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