WHO report calls for greater vigilance to allow early detection of artemisinin resistance

MMV welcomes the timely release of the WHO’s “Global report on antimalarial drug efficacy and drug resistance: 2000–2010”.

18 Nov 2010

WHO is calling on countries to conduct therapeutic efficacy studies of the antimalarial treatments for P.falciparum malaria, as the information would facilitate early detection of drug resistance and prevent its subsequent spread.

Dedicated to the development and delivery of new medicines for malaria, MMV is particularly concerned by reports of artemisinin resistance that emerged from the Thai-Cambodian border in 2008.

“Artemisinin Combination Therapies (ACTs) are considered the gold standard in antimalarial case-management,’ said Dr Timothy Wells, MMV’s Chief Scientific Officer. “Today, in many parts of the world, long-standing medicines like chloroquine and quinine no longer cure malaria. ACTs, however, are extremely effective and can cure the disease in 3 days. The reports that artemisinin is losing some of its effectiveness in parts of Cambodia are a matter of concern, and are the first signs of future problems with ACTs. We are working hard on the development of the next generation of therapies, and this report underlines the urgency of our search for these new medicines.”

The Report is based on data from therapeutic efficacy studies conducted over the past 10 years and collected and analysed for the WHO Global Database on antimalarial drug efficacy. It reveals that only 34% of malaria-endemic countries are complying with WHO recommendations to routinely monitor the efficacy of first- and second-line antimalarial medicines. This figure urgently needs to improve. The critical role of monitoring drug efficacy is demonstrated by the fact that therapeutic efficacy studies conducted by the national malaria control programmes of Cambodia and Thailand were the first to report an increase in the proportion of patients still parasitaemic on day 3. This information lead to an in-depth investigation and the launch of a global plan for artemisinin resistance containment to protect ACTs as an effective treatment for P.falciparum malaria. 

The report also recommends that countries monitor the efficacy of chloroquine and ACTs against P.vivax, as WHO is planning to establish a database in 2011 to analyse the extent of P.vivax resistance to chloroquine.

Read the report on the WHO website.