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Research Continues into Drug-Resistant Malaria

A malaria patient is comforted in the only hospital in Pailin, western Cambodia, file photo.
A malaria patient is comforted in the only hospital in Pailin, western Cambodia, file photo.
WASHINGTON DC - A Cambodian scientist is working together with advanced researchers in the United States to study drug-resistant malaria in three major provinces of Cambodia.

Lim Pharath, a research fellow at the US National Institutes of Health, is presently working in Pursat, Preah Vihear and Ratanakiri provinces to conduct surveillance for the spread or emergence of drug-resistant malaria parasites in these areas.

“Most of the antimalarial drug-resistant parasites have been found in areas of western Cambodia that border Thailand,” Lim Pharath said in an interview with VOA Khmer. “This is because there is a large migrant population which crosses international borders, uses lots of fake drugs with inadequate amounts of active ingredients, and is exposed to other factors that contribute to the development of parasite drug resistance in this area.”

Once they experience a malaria episode, patients tend to buy medicine for treatment in the private sector without a prescription and may unknowingly receive counterfeit drugs, she said.

“The lack of compliance with full-dose drug regimens may kill off only the most susceptible parasites, leaving behind those that are more tolerant or resistant to the drugs initially used by the patient,” Lim Pharath said. “Some people do not complete their treatment course, because they stop taking their medication once they begin to feel better.”

Researchers say artemisinin is the most effective drug used in combination therapy to treat malaria, but recently they have found new drug-resistant strains of malaria parasites along Cambodia’s border with Thailand.

This raises the worrisome possibility that these artemisinin-resistant strains may spread to other areas of Southeast Asia, or to India and Africa.

In collaboration with Cambodia’s National Malaria Center, they plan to conduct a new study to evaluate the effectiveness of a treatment that combines artesunate plus pyronaridine, which may be more help in treating drug-resistant parasites in the future.