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Malaria Drug Fails Patients In The UK For The First Time

Update Date: Feb 01, 2017 08:00 AM EST

For the first time, a key drug used for malaria treatment failed patients in the UK. It was unable to cure four patients who contracted the disease during a visit in Africa last year. Early signs showed that the parasite was evolving resistance.

The first treatment initially worked as the four patients responded well to therapy and were sent home. But were admitted to the hospital a month later after the infection returned. They had to be treated using other therapies.

BBC reported almost 2,000 people in the UK are treated for malaria each year and always after foreign travel. Most are treated with two combination drugs, artemether and lumefantrine. But clinical reports from the journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy showed it failed in four patients between October 2015 and February 2016.

Infected mosquitoes spread malaria parasites through bites. Malaria is considered a major killer for children under five.

Two of the cases had travelled to Uganda, one in Angola and the other in Liberia. This strongly suggests that drug-resistant malaria could be emerging in the regions of Uganda.

A team of experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) said there was no need to panic. They gathered blood samples from the four patients and the samples of the malaria causing parasites were analyzed at the Malaria Reference Laboratory at LSHTM. The analysis showed the parasites were developing ways to resist effects of the drugs.

Daily Mail reported that malaria can be found in more than 100 countries including Africa, Aisa and Central America. An estimated 14 million people were infected with malaria and 438,000 died in 2015 according to The World Health Organization.

Dr Colin Sutherland of LSHTM said the drug combination may need reviewing for future use. "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," he said.

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