Malaria drug fails for the first time

Scientists found several patients did not respond to the drug most commonly used to treat the disease

A drug used to treat patients with malaria in the UK has failed for the first time.

Scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine conducted research on the treatment of the disease with four patients having to seek alternative treatment after the drug commonly used to tackle malaria did not work.  

The failure of the treatment was put down to strains of the disease showing reduced susceptibility and a "potential first sign of drug resistance" to artemether-lumefantrine (AL).

Dr Colin Sutherland, who led the study, said treating patients with AL in the UK is "considered to be working well" but that the strategy "might need reviewing".

He said: "Fortunately there are other effective drugs available.

"All the patients were identified by self-referral which suggests more cases of treatment failure in the UK may have occurred.

What is malaria?

  • Malaria is a common bnfection in hot, tropical areas of the world caused by a parasite known as Plasmodium, injected into your body (blood) by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito
  • Globally, 300-500 million people are infected each year, with about 438,000 people dying last year
  • 90% of malaria deaths occur in Africa, where it also accounts for about 1 out of 5 childhood deaths