Malaria has always been one of those mosquito-borne diseases that have caused much strife and stress among humans. Millions of people are infected with this devastating disease every year, with thousands of those cases ending in death. But, since regular malaria wasn’t doing a good enough job of killing off people, nature has now introduced a super strain of malaria that is nigh impossible to defeat.
Asia is not a good continent to visit at this moment, as that is where this new super malaria is spreading. Good old regular malaria is already devastating to Southeast Asia, infecting 1.5 million people every year, and resulting in over 600 deaths. Now, to make the situation even worse, a newly mutated strain of malaria that is highly resistant to medicine has cropped up in Vietnam and is spreading like wildfire. This is, of course, complicating current efforts to contain malaria in Southeast Asia, and prevent it from becoming a global menace.
Like bacteria, viruses like malaria are also adapting and finding ways to resist medicine. This has already been a growing problem for treating malaria, and the fear that our current pharmaceuticals could one day no longer be able to treat the disease increasing every day. A specific strain of malaria, PfPailin, a “superbug” that first-line anti-malarial can no longer treat, is spreading rapidly throughout Southeast Asia. This strain first appeared in Cambodia a few years ago, then spread to Thailand and Laos, and has now made its way to Vietnam, where people infect by the strain are displaying “alarming rates of failure.” Drug failure rates, which mean that they are failing to treat the symptoms of malaria, are now skyrocketing 60 percent. These symptoms include fever, jaundice, organ problems, seizures, coma, and even death.
To give you an idea of just how dangerous this strain is, doctors usually try to control malaria with a combination of two very powerful drugs, called artemisinin and piperaquine. The strain has already found a way around artemisinin, which is terrifying enough, but this new mutation is showing a growing resistance to piperaquine as well. This means that malaria could soon be completely untreatable with the current medicines. The World Health Organization is particularly worried about this drug-resistant strain making its way into Africa, where most malaria cases occur. We Americans may also not be safe from this deadly disease for long if the strain continues to spread at its current rate. It’s probably a good idea to just always wear bug spray from now on.