Malaria's Drug Miracle in Danger

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Science  14 May 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5980, pp. 844-846
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5980.844

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Along the border between Thailand and Cambodia, Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous of malaria parasites, is showing unmistakable signs of becoming resistant to artemisinin derivatives, the group of powerful drugs that—as part of so-called artemisinin-based combination therapies—have become the cornerstone of malaria treatment worldwide. For the moment, the drugs still work in the area; they just take more time to do the job. But that is alarming enough, scientists say. If resistance gets worse and starts spreading out from here, the results could be catastrophic. There are few other drugs in the pipeline, and those that are closest to the market may not work against the resistant strain (see sidebar).