Fake Drugs Affect Spread of Malaria, Drug-Resistant TB

June 1, 2007

Drug-resistant strains of malaria and tuberculosis (TB) are rampant in Myanmar, and are rapidly spreading to Thailand, according to experts.

War, fake drugs and inadequate health services are fueling the spread of these diseases.

While the Chinese drug artemisinin has been used to combat malaria, patients have been taking incorrect doses or have received fake pills, allowing the mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria to build up immunity.

“So far, the malaria parasite has started to develop resistance to all drugs apart from those in the artemisinin family,” said Francois Nosten, a French malaria expert.

While Nosten said there were no signs yet of malaria becoming immune to artemisinin-based combination therapies in Southeast Asia, the same cannot be said of tuberculosis, a disease that — as with malaria — had been on the retreat in Thailand.