Efforts Against Drug-Resistant Malaria Along Thai-Cambodian Border Show Progress, But More ‘Aggressive’ Approach Needed, Health Officials Say

Efforts to prevent the spread of drug-resistant malaria along the border between Cambodia and Thailand are showing signs of progress, but additional work is needed to contain the new strain, health officials said on Friday, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports.

In Cambodia, only two cases of Plasmodium falciparum malaria were identified in the province of Pailin as of mid-September, according to the Thai health ministry’s Bureau of Vector Borne Disease. A total of 5,686 people were screened. “In the adjacent Soi Dao and Pong Nam Ron districts of Chantaburi province, there was a similar trend, with incidence dropping from 16 to seven from 2008 to 2009,” the news service writes.

To prevent the spread of the drug-resistant strain of malaria, the WHO has been working on a containment effort with the Thai and Cambodian governments. The effort has received $22.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “But more collective regional efforts are needed to make a difference in addressing the malaria problem on the border, the WHO said in a press release Thursday,” according to the news service (10/1). 

“We have to be more aggressive against the deadly Plasmodium falciparium parasite, develop new interventions, improve and encourage human resource engagement, come up with new therapies, and secure the best drugs,” said Charles Delacollette, coordinator of the the WHO’s Mekong Malaria Programme, Bernama reports. “Winning the war against this parasite is a challenge,” he said in a joint statement issued by the WHO and Thailand’s Bureau of Vector Borne Disease.

Delacollette “said it was important for [ASEAN countries] to show strong commitment and ownership in the regional containment and elimination of multi-drug resistant falciparium malaria,” the news service writes (9/30).

Experts Discuss Malaria Vaccine Prospects At D.C. Conference

At a malaria vaccine conference this week in Washington, D.C., Stephen Hoffman, the founder and CEO of Sanaria, discussed the “disappointing results” of the company’s experimental malaria vaccine, which protected five of the 80 people who volunteered for its first clinical trial, Reuters reports.

“Tests in animals suggest that perhaps giving the vaccine intravenously might provide better protection, and Hoffman … is planning ways to test the idea in people,” the news service writes. Sanaria has used up the money it receives from the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, but Hoffman plans to continue testing with money from NIH and maybe government agencies, according to the article.

“The vaccine was used to immunize 80 volunteers and it was safe and well tolerated,” Hoffman said in an interview. “It did, as expected, stimulate an immune response against the malaria parasite – just not nearly as much as Hoffman had hoped,” according to Reuters. He said, “Right now I do need to get a lot more funds.”

Groups at the malaria vaccine meeting also “presented ideas for new ways to deliver vaccines – such as Pennsylvania-based Inovio Biomedical Corp, which is using its so-called electroporation delivery-DNA vaccine approach to try to make a vaccine against malaria, as well as flu and AIDS vaccines,” the news service reports. The approach makes tiny holes in the skin instead of using a needle (Fox, 9/29).   

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