is caused by a single-celled parasite belonging to genus Plasmodium
. The parasite is transmitted by mosquitoes in territories in over 100 countries and presents a risk to about 3.3 billion people. Mosquitoes spread the parasite to humans through their bites; the parasite then travels to the liver, where it matures and reproduces in forms that infect the red cells and cause clinical symptoms.
Drug-resistant varieties of the disease have been rising for several years, although it is only recently that the these variants of the disease have become widespread. The spread is serious enough that it could undermine recent gains in malaria control, according to
a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine
("Artemisinin Resistance in P. falciparum
The study looking at the degree of the spread was based on analysis of blood samples from more than 1,000 malaria patients in 10 countries across Asia and Africa. The analysis showed that the malaria parasite had developed resistance to front-line drugs known as artemisinins
, in western and northern Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and eastern Burma, also known as Myanmar.
The BBC's summation
of the paper indicates that anti-malarial resistance is now present over much of South East Asia. The level of resistance is far worse than most scientists realized.
Meanwhile, different science groups are seeking ways to combat malaria. One team group have proposed that
introducing genetic engineering to eliminate the population of female mosquitoes is key to fighting malaria. Taking a different tract, another group have proposed
infecting mosquitoes with certain bacteria can be effective in killing the parasite.