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Drug-resistant malaria spreading rapidly in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand
Deadly malaria that is resistant to drug treatment has spread rapidly to the border between Thailand and Myanmar, raising concerns of an uncontrollable epidemic, scientists said Thursday. A pair of studies published in The Lancet and the journal Science showed how the disease is moving fast into new territory and identified a region of the parasite’s genome that may be responsible for mutating in order to survive. Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease commonly caused by a parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, that kills up to 1.2 million people year according to 2010 estimates by by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Seattle. Malaria that was resistant to treatment with the current standard therapy, artemisinin, was confirmed in Cambodia in 2006 and has since surged 800 kilometers (500 miles) westward to the Thailand-Myanmar border, the researchers said. By studying 3,202 patients along the northwestern border of Thailand near Myanmar from 2001 and 2010 and measuring the time it took them to clear malaria infections from their blood after treatment, scientists were able to show a steady increase in drug resistance.