Despite progress in the global fight against malaria over the past decade, the emergence in Southeast Asia of malaria parasites resistant to artemisinin — the standard drug used to treat the disease — raises serious new challenges. While some impacted nations are swiftly addressing the issue, the situation remains critical in Burma (Myanmar), Harvard School of Public Health’s [[Jay A. Winsten]] writes in an op-ed published May 15, 2012 in the Wall Street Journal Asia.
Winsten, associate dean for health communication and Frank Stanton director for the Center for Health Communication at HSPH, co-authored the opinion piece with Trish Stroman,a principal at The Boston Consulting Group. The authors discuss Burma’s key role in blocking further spread of this drug-resistance to India and Africa.
The first confirmed cases of the drug resistance were found in 2006 along the Thai-Cambodia border. Resistant cases were found last month along the Thai-Burmese border, and also may be present in Vietnam. In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed a Global Plan for Artemisinin Resistance Containment with strategic support from The Boston Consulting Group. The WHO estimates an additional $370 million is needed to strengthen malaria-control efforts and contain drug-resistant strains in the Greater Mekong region over the next five years.
“Now is the time to fill that funding gap and launch a frontal assault on the spread of drug-resistant strains. Otherwise the progress made against malaria could be lost,” Winsten and Stroman write.