Artemisinin is the main component of the current antimalarial treatments recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Resistance to artemisinin is not new and has been reported in South-East Asia for more than a decade. Scientists have been monitoring the geographical distribution of artemisinin resistance since 2014, but they only recently observed a drug-resistant strain of the malaria parasite in Africa.
The research is available at Nature Medicine. Scientists analysed blood samples from patients in Rwanda and found a mutation of the parasite, resistant to artemisinin, in 7.4% of patients at one of the health centres they monitored. The findings represent a setback to the progress in the fight against malaria so far. In 2018, African countries reported 93% of the malaria cases worldwide (WHO).
As malaria is getting harder to treat, innovation and new tools are crucial. Gene drive mosquitoes are one of the potential new tools under research. They could become a more cost-effective, sustainable and long-term solution, complementing existing methods to fight malaria. Hopefully, they will also be part of the global anti-malaria effort in the future.