Has Malaria Become Drug-Resistant? Medication Used To Treat Patients In The UK Has Failed For The First Time
- Four patients had showed signs of the tropical disease after returning to the UK
- They were all given a combination of two common drugs which initially worked
- But they were all readmitted to hospital a month later when the disease returned
- Eventually, they were treated through using another anti-malarial medication
A key drug used to treat patients with malaria in the UK has failed for the first time, doctors have warned.
Four patients showed signs of the tropical disease after returning from their travels to the African continent last year.
Despite their first treatment initially working, they were all readmitted to hospital a month later when the infection returned, according to clinical reports.
But experts warn that it could be the start of a drug-resistant form of the disease which could pose a threat to humans.
Experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analysed the self-referred patients blood samples.
Two of the cases had recently returned from Uganda, one had just came back from Angola and the other from Liberia.
They found the treatment failure was due to strains of the disease showing reduced susceptibility to the drug combination of artemether-lumefantrine (AL).
Luckily other therapies were used to treat them effectively, preventing them from succumbing to the deadly disease.
Dr Colin Sutherland, who led the study, now argues that this drug combination may need reviewing for future use.
He said: ‘Fortunately there are other effective drugs available.
Frontline doctors should be alert to the possibility of artemisinin-based drugs failing, and assist with the collection of detailed information about specific travel destinations.
‘A concerted effort to monitor AL outcomes in UK malaria patients needs to be made. This will determine whether our front-line malaria treatment drug is under threat.
Experts last year claimed the world’s first vaccine offering long-term protection against it could be available in just two years.
The revolutionary innoculation was found to protect adults from the infection for more than a year during trials.
Scientists at the University of Maryland said the breakthrough could one day wipe out the mass killer.
It offers protection which would work in a similar way to mosquito tablets.
And it has the potential to help travelers, military personnel and children living in malaria-endemic areas, they said.
‘The good news is that our collaborative infectious disease warning and testing systems which are in place, overseen by Public Health England, are highly effective.’
All the patients were identified by self-referral which suggests more cases of treatment failure in the UK may have occurred, Dr Sutherland added.
The cases were all between October 2015 and February 2016, the study published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy noted.
Malaria is found in more than 100 countries, including large parts of Africa, Asia and Central America.
The World Health Organization estimates that 14 million people were infected with malaria and 438,000 died in 2015.
Despite the tropical disease not being found in the UK, around 1,500 travelers are believed to be diagnosed with it each year.
If malaria is diagnosed and treated promptly, most will make a full recovery – but it can be deadly without medical care.