What is the impact of antimalarial drug resistance?

Malaria remains one of the most devastating infectious diseases with approximately 207 million infections and more than 600,000 deaths each year - primarily children under the age of 5 in sub-Saharan Africa.

Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest form of the malaria parasite, is responsible for the vast majority of the mortality and morbidity associated with malaria infection.  Artemisinin Combination Therapies, or ACTs are currently the frontline treatments against P. falciparum malaria. Although these treatments are working well in many parts of the world, there is serious concern that malaria parasites are once again developing widespread resistance to this frontline treatment.

Key drivers of resistance in the malaria parasite include

  • Using artemisinin without a complementary combination treatment 
  • Unusual genetic structure of malaria parasites in Western Cambodia
  • Counterfeit or substandard treatments
  • Unregulated or poorly administered antimalarial drug use

WWARN Tools: monitor and track the emergence and spread of antimalarial resistance

  • WWARN Explorer - uses dynamic, interactive mapping to visualise summary data from studies stored in the WWARN Data Repository.  Find out how you can share your data
  • WWARN Surveyors - display published malaria drug resistance markers for key genes and antimalarial medicine quality reports
  • WWARN literature reviews – comprehensive resources from which to identify research evidence gaps and observe trends in publications

New evidence of emergence and spread of resistance

Artemisinin drug resistance is now firmly established in many parts of Southeast Asia and there is fear that it will spread or emerge in other parts of the region.

At present, there are no confirmed reports of artemisinin resistance in either Africa or Latin America, where increased malaria prevention and control measures have dramatically reduced the burden of disease in many areas during the last decade. However, these gains are fragile and multiple risk factors for resistance exist on both continents.

Find out more about the history of antimalarial drug resistance.