Is Malaria the Next Swine Flu in Waiting?
Malaria is a disease affecting 350 million people worldwide every year. Of the affected people, only one million die. This is because a powerful drug called Artemisinin was able to deal with malaria to a large extent. But malaria is notorious for being resistant to drugs quickly. Unfortunately, it has become drug resistant for yet another time. This report was revealed by scientists on November 19, 2009, at a meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. This article gives further insight on this topic.
How Malaria has Become Drug Resistant This Time:
When bacteria attack our body, they need to be killed completely. Artemisinin is a drug which was effective only when combined with another drug and given to the patient. The added drug kills any leftover bacteria which manage to evade the dose of Artemisinin. If this added drug is not given, the leftover bacteria, which survived the effects of Artemisinin, pose a severe threat in the future. Malaria caused by these survivor bacteria cannot be controlled by the Artemisinin drug any more. The exact process by which these bacteria become drug resistant is not known yet.
According to Dr. Christopher King of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, people in Asia and Africa are widely affected by this disease. Unfortunately, they do not always follow the World Health Organization guidelines of combining the Artemisinin drug with another auxiliary drug. Often it is not possible to easily find a combination drug for Artemisinin. This further increases the seriousness of the problem.
How Malaria can be a Serious Threat like Swine Flu:
The flu was generally known to be a normal disease and ignored. It was not taken seriously because the medicines against this disease were considered competent enough in dealing with the disease completely. But over the time, the bacteria and virus responsible for this disease gave birth to a new generation of organisms. They are now more powerful than the available drug. Lack of vigilance and complacency has led to a state where scientists are finding it difficult to even trace the origin of these organisms. That is why it took a considerable amount of time to discover the vaccine for swine flu.
Signs of Artemisinin failing to control malaria were evident several years ago in the south Asian country of Cambodia. Lack of steadfastness shown by health authorities at that time has allowed the disease to spread in its new version to border areas of Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, and China. But according to Robert Newman, director of the Global Malaria Program at the World Health Organization in Geneva, “the signals are early and need further verification.”
Normally, malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium. It enters into our body through the blood stream and attacks the liver. There it starts multiplying quickly and affects the blood cells. Presently, scientists need time to trace the origin of the new drug-resistant parasite. Only then, can they work on discovering a new powerful drug. This process will take time to complete. If action is not taken on a priority basis, another world epidemic is in the waiting to attack us like the swine flu.