'Super malaria' on the rise in South East Asia: Is Singapore at risk?

'Super malaria' on the rise in South East Asia: Is Singapore at risk?

There's good news and there's bad news...

Super Malaria On The Rise: South-east Asia is seeing a rapid spread of what is being termed as a 'super malaria' parasite.

This strain of malaria - an infectious disease spread by the anopheles mosquito - is particularly dangerous because it cannot be controlled with the current drugs use to treat it, says the BBC. 

When a mosquito that is a malaria carrier bites you, it injects you with the plasmodium parasite.

From here, the parasites migrate to the liver, where they mature. After a few days, the parasites infect the bloodstream, where, within 48-72 hours, they multiply, making the infected cells explode. 

The bad news? 

It's unlikely that Singapore can protect its shores from this strain of malaria, even though were we declared malaria-free by the World Health Organisation in 1982.

This is because of the many travellers to the island from neighbouring countries where the new strain is prevalent, as well as the large foreign workforce, reports The Straits Times. 

Assistant Professor Rajesh Chandramohanadas from the Singapore University of Technology & Design is quoted: "With 6 per cent of total malaria-related deaths reported from the neighbouring South-east Asia region, Singapore lies equally vulnerable to these newer strains of malaria."

The good news? 

Prof. Chandramohanadas,  who studies the biology of malaria parasites, explains that while it will be hard to keep the disease out of Singapore, it's "unlikely that there will be a rapid spread here."

The reason for this is linked to Singapore's malaria-free status. Because of this, there is only a very small population of the carriers of the Anopheles mosquito. 

This particular 'super strain' of malaria was reportedly first detected in western Cambodia back in 2007, and "spread like wildfire to Vietnam," Professor Arjen Dondorp, head of the Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit at Mahidol University in Bangkok, said.

Prof. Dondorp further explained, "(The strain) is very fit and spreads very easily. This resistance is taking over. Cambodia already changed to a new drug, likely to last one or two years. Vietnam has to change now."

Resistance to treatment

The usual treatment for malaria is artemisinin with piperaquine, says The Straits Times. However over the years, the parasite has developed high resistance to both these drugs. 

In Vietnam, the treatment fails around a third of the time, says Prof. Dondorp, as well as in Cambodia, where prevalence rates of malaria in some regions can be as high as 60%. 

Globally, over 200 million are infected with malaria annually. 

Dr Michael Chew, from the Wellcome Trust medical research charity, is quoted by The Straits Times as saying: "The spread of this malaria 'superbug' strain... is alarming and has major implications for public health globally.

"Around 700,000 people a year die from drug-resistant infections, including malaria. If nothing is done, this could increase to millions... every year by 2050."

Common signs and symptoms of malaria

Following an infection of the parasite, the symptoms of the disease typically show between 10 days to 4 weeks. But some may not experience the symptoms for months. 

According to Healthline, common symptoms are: 

  • shaking chills that can range from moderate to severe
  • high fever
  • profuse sweating
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • anemia
  • muscle pain
  • convulsions
  • coma
  • bloody stools

Mums and dads, awareness of a medical issue always brings us one step closer to prevention. 

Keep your home and surroundings clean and clear of stagnant water as a rule, so that mosquitoes have no chance of breeding. And if you notice any of the above signs in your loved ones, seek medical advice without delays. 

References

The Straits Times

Healthline 

Read more:

Study: Mosquitoes are more attracted to pregnant women

Mummies, are mosquito coils safe for your kids?

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