BANGKOK, March 13 (Xinhua) -- An expert recently suggested that governments and international organizations should be more honest and determined in order to eliminate malaria, as the world faces the risk of losing the main arteminisin class of antimalarial drugs.
Arteminisin, an extract from the sweet wormwood plant that has been used against malaria in ancient China, is the most effective drug against malaria today.
Its derivative artesunate has become the treatment of choice for severe malaria and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are the foundation of modern falciparum malaria treatment globally, according to Sir Nicholas White, a professor at Oxford university and Bangkok's Mahidol University.
Artemisinins are "fantastic" antimalarial drugs, which have saved around 6 million lives since 2000 with other anti-malarial methods, said Prof. White in an interview with Xinhua last Thursday, adding that they "are more rapidly and more reliably effective than other drugs, and they are very well tolerated, don't have side effects."
Artemisinins work very well in most parts of the world, but right here in Southeast Asia, artemisinin resistance has emerged.
According to World Health Organization, artemisinin resistance has been confirmed in five countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Moreover, along the Cambodia-Thailand border, Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous species of the parasite that caused malaria, has become resistant to almost all available antimalarial medicines, which poses a threat to global health.
"History has given us two very serious lessons," Prof. White asked people, governments and international organizations to see the real risk that we are facing.
"If we look back in history, previous important anti-malarial drug such as chloroquine, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, their resistance all started somewhere near the border between Cambodia and Thailand and "spread from there across Southeast Asia, across India, and finally across Africa, which killed millions," he said, adding, "Now here we are, third time, and we have resistance starting in Cambodia."
"We need to do more in this region to eliminate malaria and get it stopped before it spreads."
"We cannot think of any way of eliminating resistance without eliminating everything, all malaria."
Prof. White pointed out some countries haven't paid enough attention to malaria, as it is a "disease of poor people in remote communities", and international organizations like WHO should estimate the risk correctly.
He asked for more honesty and transparency in the governance of the process of eliminating malaria.
"If we were really honest about the problems, about what is being done, we will conclude that not enough is being done," He said.
White also pointed out that much more determination is required to eliminate malaria and China has set a good example.
"The spread of this resistance, to India and Africa is big, is high risk, we need to be more aggressive in our elimination methods, and we could learn from China," He said.
"China is aggressive in its elimination, and it worked, there is very little malaria left in China."
He said China should give advice to other countries on how to eliminate malaria.
Focusing on the treatment of malaria for many years, Prof. White told Xinhua that he is working on new drugs, or 3-drug combination with artemisinin in it as a part of the long-run battle against malaria.
"I would like to see malaria go, " He said.