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Researchers warn that the spread of this “super malaria” in Southeast Asia should be seen as a global threat.

Bailey Bennett
September 27, 2017

Malaria, an already dangerous and sometimes life-threatening disease transmitted by infected mosquitos, has recently taken an even scarier turn in the form of “super malaria.”

This form of the malaria parasite cannot be killed with regular anti-malaria drugs, BBC News reports, and is spreading at an alarming rate across Southeast Asia.

Forming in Cambodia in 2008, the disease has now been found in Thailand, Laos and southern Vietnam. Researchers fear that the “super malaria” could continue to spread through the entire region of Asia and even eventually jump to Africa, BBC reports.

In a letter published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases by the team at Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok, the researchers describe what they call a “sinister development”: A single mutant lineage has acquired resistance to anti-malaria drugs piperaquine and artemisinin. In short, it’s entirely possible that the disease could become completely untreatable. Therefore, the letter states that the “evolution and subsequent transnational spread of this single fit multidrug-resistant malaria parasite lineage is of international concern.”

As BBC writes, there is now an even greater pressure to eliminate malaria completely from the Greater Mekong sub-region of Southeast Asia before it spreads further and becomes untreatable. Currently, about 212 million people contract malaria every year, although incidents decreased a hopeful 21 percent between 2010 and 2015.

IFLScience also quotes Michael Chew of the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical research charity based in the U.K., in saying, “The spread of this malaria ‘superbug’ strain, resistant to the most effective drug we have, 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 of people every year by 2050.”

Unfortunately, eradicating the disease is, needless to say, easier said than done.

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