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Eastern African Scientists pledge immediate action to confront Anti-Malarial Drug resistance
“Increased vigilance is needed to detect the early signs of malaria drug resistance in East Africa” This was the consensus at the Antimalarial Resistance Stakeholders Meeting co-organized by the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN), Roll Back Malaria-Eastern Africa Regional Network (RBM-EARN), and the East African Consortium for Clinical Research (EACCR) in Nairobi last week. The meeting saw more than forty leading East African scientists pledge to put aside national interests and bureaucratic barriers to tackle the potential threat of artemisinin drug resistant malaria in Africa.
In the last few years, signs of artemisinin resistance have been reported on the borders between Cambodia and Thailand and Myanmar and Thailand. Recent media reports in Kenya have erroneously suggested that this artemisinin resistance had spread beyond those regions and was currently occurring in East Africa. Professor T. K. Mutabingwa of the Hubert Kairuki Memorial University, and a WWARN Board member, cautioned that current research does not support this conclusion.
“To the best of our knowledge, there are no confirmed cases of artemisinin resistance in East Africa ,” Mutabingwa said. “Inaccurate reporting about artemisinin resistance could threaten public confidence in ACT’s and cause unnecessary panic. “He added.
The researchers at the meeting however stressed the need for increased vigilance within Africa as the continent was considerably vulnerable. “All the risk factors for resistance including substandard drugs containing less active ingredients, not following recommended dosages, continued use of monotherapy (rather than the recommended combination therapy) and inadequate access to treatment exist on the African continent,” said Dr. Philippe Guerin, WWARN’s Executive Director.
Dr Ambrose Talisuna, the Regional Scientific Director for East Africa concurrently noted “Resistance to artemisinin could cause (ACT’s) to become ineffective, and we don’t have replacements ready to take their place. We cannot be complacent and assume that resistance won’t occur here,”
The meeting further emphasized on the need for regional resource mobilization and for malarious countries to collaboratively share information. Elaborating on this, Dr Willis Akhwale, Director Department of Disease Control and Prevention, Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, Kenya, said “Scientists, institutions, policymakers, and national malaria control programmes must work together and share information to build a viable response to this emerging public health threat,”
As the meeting concluded, participants selected an interim steering committee that will articulate strategies and coordinate activities to prepare for the possible threat of artemisinin resistant malaria in Africa. Participants also agreed that the next steps should include a detailed action plan, identifying leaders to engage policy makers, and developing protocols for standardization and sharing of research data.
Please read the full Press Release from Stakeholders Meeting for more information.