ASTMH Annual Meeting 2019blog
The scourge of antimalarial drug resistance
By: Andrea Stewart
This blog was written by Andrea Stewart, Head of Communications & Advocacy, at the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network, a partnership of more than 270 research institutions and public health experts working to stem the tide of antimalarial drug resistance.
We’ve made tremendous gains to fight malaria over the last two decades. The global health community has worked tirelessly to create and use the best tools available to prevent, diagnose, treat and contain this deadly disease. We’re facing the contradiction of achieving elimination targets in some countries, yet seeing a resurgence of malaria in others.
Antimalarial drug resistance is a challenge we can’t afford to ignore – if we respond and prepare for further resistance we can save millions of lives and billions of dollars of global health spending.
During TropMed18 we’ve heard about the continued spread and emergence of P. falciparum and P. vivax resistance in the Greater Mekong; we’ve heard about the money we risk wasting if frontline treatments continue to fail in Asia and start to decline in Africa. We know that millions of lives can be saved if get the right medicines to the right groups, at the right dosing levels and of the best possible quality.
We heard results from a number of research collaborations including the Tracking Artmesinin Resistance Collaboration, the IMPROV Study and the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network - ambitious examples of multi-partner, multi-country collaborations that test different treatment strategies to prolong the life of antimalarials while we wait for more medicines to come onto the market.
We heard some encouraging results during TropMed18:
- We can go from Artmesinin Combination Therapies (ACTs) to Triple Therapies in Southeastern Asia.
- We can shorten the treatment period of Primaquine to 7 days, and increase the dose, and still get the same safe and effective results for P. vivax sufferers.
- We can protect and treat pregnant women and small children by adjusting the dosing of our safest ACTs to eliminate the parasite for good.
- We can make progress on the unacceptable levels of counterfeit and falsified medicines by supporting partnerships like the #MedsWeCanTrust alliance to increase awareness and incite action to stop the proliferation of poor quality medicines.
We’re trying to get ready for the worst case scenario: widespread resistance in Africa. Let’s keep working together as a community of academics, policy-makers, funders, pharmaceutical companies, NGOs and health workers to provide a robust toolkit of options and actions to treat and prevent malaria, and above all ensure we’re not returning to morbidity and mortality rates from decades gone by.