Resurgence of Multi-Drug Resistant Malaria can wreak havoc in South Asia and Africa

MDR or multi-drug resistant malaria is to become a big challenge for the medical fraternity.

Malaria continues to take its toll on mankind and according to World malaria report 2020 and Geneva: World Health Organization, 2020, 229 million cases of malaria were reported worldwide and it led to 409,000 deaths in 2019. Malaria remained the scourge of Asia and Africa where it extracted a huge toll. In the earlier ’70s with fumigation and widespread use of DDT controlled the spread of malaria.

However, the disease hit with double force and this time it became resistant to Chloroquine which was the primary drug in use for treating P.vivax and P.falciparum. The most dangerous form of Malaria is caused by Plasmodium Falciparum. P.Faciparum also causes the dreaded brain fever. Once the P.Falciparum enters the brain, the risk of morbidity is very high.

Tu Youyou after receiving her Nobel Prize at the Stockholm Concert Hall, 10 December 2015. (Source:

Youyou Tu- Saved millions of lives from malaria

During the Vietnam War, many U.S personnel fell to malaria. The disease also struck a number of North and South Vietnamese personnel. On request from the Vietnam government, the Chinese started a secret 523 Project. The project was led by Professor Youyou Tu who ultimately discovered Artemisinin which has saved millions of lives. Professor Youyou Tu was ultimately awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery.

Artemisinin and its derivatives remained the primary drug for treating resistant Falciparum malaria cases. In the beginning, Artemisinin was given only for hospital use. However, later it started to be used widely and the worst fears have now come true. The incidence of Artemisinin resistance has increased particularly in South East Asia and in Africa.

A study conducted in Uganda and published in the New England Journal of Medicine Evidence of Artemisinin-Resistant Malaria in Africa was detailed. The world is once again seeing a resurgence of Malaria and this time it is Artemisinin resistant malaria.

MDR or multi-drug resistant malaria is to become a big challenge for the medical fraternity. A similar situation exists for MDR Tuberculosis which is causing increasing morbidity. Both Malaria and Tuberculosis are rampant in third world countries including India and we may be just looking at the abyss of another disaster.