Malaria, as with all germs, tries to outsmart the drugs used against it. Chloroquine, which used to be the primary weapon against the parasite, is ineffective in many parts of the world. New drugs have been substituted, but in time, malaria is likely to outfox them also. It was reported last month that drug resistant malaria has been found in Cambodia, ironically the same region of the world where chloroquine resistance developed over half a century ago. Scientists monitor malaria resistance closely trying to stay a step ahead of the parasite. This is an example of the high stakes cat and mouse game played out between the medical profession and the shrewd and sinister germs that do combat against them. In these competitions, sometimes the medical folks win and sometimes the bugs prevail. This war will never end. As an aside, infections in the United States are more serious than ever as today’s germs are increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment. A leading explanation for this unfortunate development is the overuse of antibiotics in this country. Germs that are repeatedly exposed to antibiotics learn how to adapt and survive against them. While medication overuse is not a significant issue with malaria prevention, drug resistance to the disease does and will occur. Your travel physician will consider your risk and your itinerary before deciding on which medication to prescribe to you.
There is one additional item that some travelers need to be reminded of. Even the most potent malaria medicine won’t work if you don’t take it. How’s that for cutting edge medical advice!
Next posting, travelers have more weapons than just drugs.