In Southeast Asia, the malaria parasite has been steadily building resistance to the drug that's used to treat it. This scary news, but even worse: the resistance is on the verge of spreading into densely populated India.
This data comes from a new study in infectious diseases publication the Lancet (read the scientific paper here). According to the BBC, malaria kills about 584,000 people a year, down almost fifty percent from the number of deaths in 2000. Such is the power of drug artemisinin, but its effectiveness is weakening as resistance grows in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar (Burma), including a region that's just 15 miles from India.
The BBC notes that this type of crisis has happened before ... and when it did, it spread into other regions of the world:
Chloroquine probably saved hundreds of millions of lives, but resistance was discovered in 1957 around the border between Cambodia and Thailand. Resistance spread around the world and reached Africa 17 years later.
There is no evidence of artemisinin resistance in Africa yet, although there is concern that history is about to repeat itself with deadly consequences.
Photo by Enrique Dans.