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WHO battles malaria treatment resistance

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Geneva, Switzerland (UPI) Jan 12, 2011
The World Health Organization began efforts to stop the spread of parasites resistant to the most potent treatment for malaria, the Geneva-based agency said.

Undertaken by the U.N. health agency and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, the plan outlines actions to contain and prevent resistance to artemisinins, the critical component of artemisinin-based combination therapies, the most potent treatment for falciparum malaria, the deadliest form of the disease, the United Nations said Wednesday in a release.

"The usefulness of our most potent weapon in treating malaria is now under threat," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. "The new plan takes advantage of an unprecedented opportunity in the history of malaria control: to stop the emergence of drug resistance at its source and prevent further international spread. The consequences of widespread artemisinin resistance compel us to seize this opportunity."

The five-step Global Plan for Artemisinin Resistance Containment's goal is to contain and prevent artemisinin resistance by stopping the spread of resistant parasites, increase monitoring and surveillance for artemisinin resistance, improve access to malaria diagnostic testing and logical treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapies, invest in artemisinin resistance-related research and motivate action, and mobilize resources, the United Nations said.

WHO said the plan's success will depend on a coordinated and adequately funded response at global, regional and national levels.

"Effective containment of artemisinin resistance will significantly improve our capability to sustain current control achievements at country level," said Awa Coll-Seck, executive director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership.

The health agency said the number of malaria cases fell by more than 50 percent in 43 countries during the past decade. The loss of artemisinin-based combination therapies as an effective treatment likely would result in an increase in malaria-related deaths, WHO warned.

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