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Immediate Response Required To Curb Spread Of Artemisinin-Resistant Malaria In Burma

In this Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Jay Winsten, associate dean at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Trish Stroman, a principal at the Boston Consulting Group, examine “the emergence in Southeast Asia of malarial parasites resistant to artemisinin — the current gold-standard drug for treating the disease,” writing it “poses grave new challenges.” Winsten and Stroman recount a brief history of artemisinin resistance in the region and note, “While many affected countries in the region are taking swift countermeasures, the situation remains serious in Burma,” also known as Myanmar.

“The global health community is in a race against time to contain the spread of artemisinin resistance,” and “Burma is key to successful containment efforts because it is a chokepoint of sorts,” they continue. “Based on experience with other drugs against which the disease has developed resistance, there is reason for concern that resistant parasites could spread from Burma and other Mekong countries into India and Africa, where transmission rates are higher and the disease even deadlier,” they write, adding, “While the threat to India and Africa isn’t imminent, the situation in Burma requires an immediate response.” They highlight a Global Plan for Artemisinin Resistance Containment developed by the WHO last year, discuss challenges to the implementation of the plan in Burma, and conclude, “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” (5/15).