Antimalarial drug resistance in Africa: strategies for monitoring and deterrence.
Despite the initiation in 1998 by the World Health Organization of a campaign to 'Roll Back Malaria', the rates of disease and death caused by Plasmodium falciparum malaria in sub-Saharan Africa are growing. Drug resistance has been implicated as one of the main factors in this disturbing trend. The efforts of international agencies, governments, public health officials, advocacy groups and researchers to devise effective strategies to deter the spread of drug resistant malaria and to ameliorate its heavy burden on the people of Africa have not succeeded. This review will not attempt to describe the regional distribution of drug resistant malaria in Africa in detail, mainly because information on resistance is limited and has been collected using different methods, making it difficult to interpret. Instead, the problems of defining and monitoring resistance and antimalarial drug treatment outcomes will be discussed in hopes of clarifying the issues and identifying ways to move forward in a more coordinated fashion. Strategies to improve measurement of resistance and treatment outcomes, collection and use of information on resistance, and potential approaches to deter and reduce the impact of resistance, will all be considered. The epidemiological setting and the goals of monitoring determine how antimalarial treatment responses should be measured. Longitudinal studies, with incidence of uncomplicated malaria episodes as the primary endpoint, provide the best information on which to base treatment policy changes, while simpler standard in vivo efficacy studies are better suited for ongoing efficacy monitoring. In the absence of an ideal antimalarial combination regimen, different treatment alternatives are appropriate in different settings. But where chloroquine has failed, policy changes are long overdue and action must be taken now.
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