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India records one-tenth of world's malaria cases

Apr 25, 2011 09:24 AM IST India India

New Delhi: India recorded 25 million cases of Malaria and 30,000 deaths in the year 2009 - according to the World Health Organisation. That's one tenth the number of cases worldwide. And now a bigger threat emerging is that of drug resistance.

About ten years ago, the most commonly used anti-malaria drug Chloroquine, stopped working against the malaria parasite, forcing countries to switch to the second line of treatment, called Artemisinin-combinations.

But a study done by the Public Health foundation of India shows that only government hospitals, which treat about 40 per cent of the country's malaria cases are treating patients with these effective second line drugs.

About 60 per cent of malaria patients, receiving treatment at private hospitals are still being prescribed Chloroquinine.

Dr R Laxminarayan of PHFI said, "Chloroquinine is right now much cheaper. If you can't afford an anti-malarial, then you go with the cheapest option and the patients don't know that it's not effective."

In fact, there's no data readily available on what happens to the patients getting this treatment. And that's not all - the World Health Organisation has noted the emergence of the malaria parasite's resistance to artemisinin-based drugs along the Thailand-Cambodia border.

Dr R Laxminarayan said, "This is the last option for treating malaria. If the parasites become resistant to artemisinin and this is already starting to happen in south east Asia, then we have literally no options for treating malaria not just in India, but around the world. It is the same phenomenon that is working against malaria as in the case of superbug against antibiotics."