Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Drug-resistant malaria strain found in Kenya

PHOTO | FILE A mosquito.

PHOTO | FILE A mosquito. New evidence has confirmed the presence of hard-to-treat malaria strains in Kenya despite continued denials by government officials and lobbies. 

By GATONYE GATHURA [email protected]

New evidence has confirmed the presence of hard-to-treat malaria strains in Kenya despite continued denials by government officials and lobbies.

Data collected by local and foreign scientists in western Kenya shows that it is taking much longer to treat malaria in some patients than before using first line medicines.

The latest information comes barely six months after senior Ministry of Health officials and malaria activists rubbished reports carried in this paper citing research by a London university that suggested that malaria was building resistance against the class of drugs called artemisinin combination therapy (ACT).

“To the best of our knowledge, there are no confirmed cases of artemisinin resistance on the African continent. Inaccurate reporting about artemisinin resistance could threaten public confidence in ACTs and cause unnecessary panic,” said Prof T.K. Mutabingwa, a board member of Worldwide Anti-malarial Resistance Network.

Two of the studies, whose reports will be presented next week at the annual general meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Atlanta, USA, show that genes responsible for slowing down of the two first line medicines AL and DHA-PIP are similar to those creating resistance in parts of Asia.

“This study indicates for the first time that these genes are associated with reduced response to artemisinins in samples collected from western Kenya.”

The second study — which was evaluating the effectiveness of AL, one of the ACTs, in Ombeyi, western Kenya — concludes: “This data demonstrates an association between one of the genes and disease recurrence after treatment with AL.”

A third study carried out by seven research institutions from Kenya, Tanzania The Netherlands and the UK sampled 298 children in Mbita, western Kenya, and documented evidence indicating the effectiveness of the two first line malaria drugs to be declining.

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