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Fighting malaria at risk from counterfeit drugs
Every year hundreds of thousands of people worldwide die from a malaria infection. For this reason, the World Health Organization (WHO), voluntary aid organizations and the national health authorities in the countries concerned have been stepping up their efforts in the fight against dangerous tropical diseases for years - with success.
However, researchers at the National Health Institutes in the United States (NIH) are now warning that the success to date has been jeopardized by counterfeit malaria drugs, the news agency dpa said. The scientists around Gaurvika Nayyar had evaluated several previous studies from Southeast Asia and Africa in order to uncover possible obstacles in the fight against malaria. They found that 20 to 42 percent of the malaria drugs examined were of poor quality or were fake. The corresponding preparations were offered in 28 countries. Gaurvika Nayyar and colleagues write in the journal "The Lancet Infectious Diseases" that these inferior malaria drugs threaten to destroy the previous success in the fight against malaria.
Fighting malaria is a Millennium Development Goal The fight against malaria is one of the United Nations' (UN) Millennium Development Goals, which was decided in 2000. According to this, the spread of malaria is to be stopped by 2015 and a trend reversal is to be achieved. Indeed, considerable success has been achieved in the fight against malaria since then, so that, according to the WHO, the number of deaths fell by almost a quarter to 655,000 malaria deaths in 2010. While the goal of containing the so-called swamp fever is far from being achieved, the intensive efforts of the WHO, the national health authorities and the aid organizations have borne fruit. The improved medical care for those affected on site also played a major role in this. However, the current study results of the scientists around Gaurvika Nayyar show that the previous successes are on shaky legs.
Resistance of the Malaria Pathogen to Counterfeit Drugs So far, according to the US scientists, there are no reliable data on the spread of counterfeit or defective malaria drugs, but the current study reveals frightening numbers. Gaurvika Nayyar and colleagues report that up to 42 percent of the preparations were defective or counterfeit as part of their investigation. These inferior malaria drugs are jeopardizing the success of previous efforts, the US researchers continue. Because taking incorrectly dosed drugs leads to the development of resistance of the pathogens, as recently in the border region between Thailand and Cambodia against the active ingredient artemisinin. Since artemisinin is one of the most important active substances in combination preparations against malaria, the health authorities around the world were particularly concerned about the proven resistance. The experts warn that if resistance to common malaria drugs continues to increase, there will be a massive rise in the number of deaths. The actual risk potential of malaria can be seen from the figures given by Gaurvika Nayyar. According to the NIH Fogarty International Center expert, "3.3 billion people are at risk of contracting malaria, which occurs in 106 countries."
Different numbers of malaria deaths Malaria infection is primarily characterized by high, recurrent fever, accompanied by chills and gastrointestinal complaints. Children, in particular, are at particular risk and often fail to get the results of the infection if they do not receive medical care. There is by no means a consensus among the experts about the number of actual fatalities, because while the WHO estimates that 655,000 malaria deaths occurred in 2010, US researchers from the University of Washington calculated around 1.2 million fatalities. Children under the age of five, who accounted for 56 percent of malaria deaths, were most affected. Although a decline can also be seen in the numbers of US researchers, the data obtained make it clear that the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal can already be ruled out at this point. It is to be hoped that the spread of counterfeit and inferior malaria medication will not cause an increase in the number of infections in the future. (fp)
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Image: Stefan Klaffehn / pixelio.de