Drug-resistant malaria spreading in East Africa

An international group of researchers has found that malaria that is resistant to one of the most effective drugs to treat it is spreading rapidly in East Africa.

Malaria, a disease caused by protozoa carried by mosquitos, is regarded as one of the three major infectious diseases, along with tuberculosis and AIDS. The World Health Organization says that every year, more than 200 million people around the world are infected with malaria, and more than 400,000 people die from it.

A group including researchers from Japan's Juntendo University and Uganda's Gulu University studied the spread of artemisinin-resistant malaria in Uganda. They released the results of their survey in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The group says 14 patients, or 5.8 percent of the 240 patients studied, showed evidence of artemisinin resistance. Thirteen of the 14 patients were infected with parasites with characteristic mutations associated with artemisinin resistance.

While no patients were found to have these mutations in blood tests conducted in 2015, 16 percent of those tested in 2019 were found to have them.

The research group first reported the emergence of artemisinin-resistant protozoa three years ago. The group says the latest study confirms that artemisinin- resistant malaria is actually spreading.

Professor Mita Toshihiro of Juntendo University says a system to monitor drug-resistant malaria and the development of other drugs are needed.