Four patients in the UK have been re-admitted into hospital after malaria therapy proved to be unsuccessful after their visit to Africa.
The drug combination of artemether and lumefantrine provides treatment to those who’ve been diagnosed with the malaria parasite, which is spread by infected mosquito bites. For the first time ever in the UK, between October 2015 and February 2016, clinical reports detailed in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy have noted that this treatment has failed, and there are early signs that the parasite is in fact becoming drug-resistant.
All four patients had initially responded to the treatment and were discharged, but were then readmitted when the infection rebounded a month later. They’ve now undergone other therapies to combat the sickness.
Though a team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said it was too early to panic, they’ve flagged the potential worsening of symptoms, and have demanded an urgent appraisal of drug-resistance levels in Africa. A detailed analysis has suggested that the parasites were developing ways of resisting the effects of the front-line drugs.
The three countries associated with the above cases are Uganda, Angola and Liberia, and this suggests that this kind of drug-resistant malaria could be spreading over wide regions of the African continent. However, this type of resistance differs greatly from the form developing in South East Asia that’s been causing huge international concern.
Malaria is a major killer of the under-fives, with one child dying from the disease every two minutes. Between 1,500 and 2,000 people are treated for malaria in the UK each year, always after foreign travel.