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Scientist Warns Indonesia to Take Reports of New Deadly Strain of Malaria Seriously

on 03 Mei 2010.

A scientist is calling on the government to consider seriously reports by Australian and German scientists suggesting an imminent threat from a new form of malaria caused by a parasite commonly found in monkeys.

“Reports of humans contracting the new type of malaria must be thoroughly responded to,” said Upik Kesumawati Hadi, an entomologist with the Bogor Institute of Agriculture.

He referred to a report recently posted on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site about the identification of Plasmodium knowlesi, commonly found in long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, in a 39-year-old Australian who had just returned home from South Kalimantan forests.

Commercially available rapid diagnostic tests do not distinguish P. knowlesi from other forms of human malaria parasites and the parasite does not respond to the usual line of medicines, including chloroquine.

“A clinical survey of the population living near the forest must be done to see if there are cases [of infection]. Similar surveys should be carried out in the monkey population, too,” Upik said. “If there are cases, the government must step up preventive efforts.”

The CDC report, dated April 4, establishes P. knowlesi as the fifth parasite that causes malaria in humans.

Science Daily in its Sept. 9, 2009, edition ran an article on Malaysian researchers confirming the potentially deadly nature of this strain of the disease. The researchers from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, led by Balbir Singh and Janet Cox-Singh, showed that P. knowlesi was widespread among humans in Malaysia. The online daily quoted the lead researcher as saying P. knowlesi could be confused with other parasites that cause a benign form of malaria.

“In fact, because P. knowlesi parasites reproduce every 24 hours in the blood, the disease can be potentially fatal,” Singh said.

Globally, malaria kills more than a million people each year. The disease is caused by parasites that are injected into the bloodstream by infected mosquitoes. There are four parasites — Plasmodium falciparum, P. malariae, P. vivax and P. ovale — that commonly cause the disease.

German scientists, led by Nicole Berens-Riha of the University of Munich, have also conducted a study on P. knowlesi in Kalimantan.

Their report, published by Promedmail.org, says: “It is not surprising to find P. knowlesi in Kalimantan, as it has been described from the Malaysian part of Borneo, but there are no cases described from Indonesia for now ... It is very likely that P. knowlesi will be found in other parts and islands of Indonesia too.”

However, Tjandra Yoga Aditama, the Health Ministry’s director general of infectious disease and environmental health, said: “We heard about the reports and the ministry’s research and development body is looking into them. There’s nothing to worry about even if there are human cases reported in Indonesia.”

Extracted from The Jakarta Globe.

Arkib Berita

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