Mon, 13 Mar 2000

Warnings of drug-resistant malaria

MAKASSAR, South Sulawesi (JP): With fear of a malaria outbreak high on people's minds due to the climatic shift from the wet to the dry season, a scientist specializing malaria treatment warned that the common drugs used may no longer be effective in treating the illness.

Gene mutation expert Syarifuddin cautioned that while there had yet to be indisputable evidence, there was a worrying trend that the medication normally used to treat malaria would be ineffective due to the resistance or gene mutation of the bacteria.

Syarifuddin pointed out that this trend was based on an assumption taken from a recent study conducted in several areas across the country which found that medication used for treating malaria was no longer effective.

He mentioned areas in South Sulawesi, Central Java, Irian Jaya, East Kalimantan and East Nusa Tenggara where research had found that the usual malaria medication had not yielded maximum results.

"The medication doesn't work anymore because the bacteria has undergone gene mutation ... There is resistance once the medicine is consumed by a human," Syarifuddin explained.

Syarifuddin said he arrived at the conclusion after thorough research under the Eijkman Research Center and the America- Indonesia Medical Resources (AIMR) using the method of biology molecular technique for malaria.

"Almost 100 percent of malaria patients tested across the country find their illness is resistant to croloquin (krolokuin) which is made from quinine, because the malaria bacteria had also undergone an almost 90 percent gene alteration," he explained.

Besides gene mutation, irregular usage or an overdose of drugs used to treat malaria is also a factor to people not responding to the drugs, he said.

Syarifuddin suggested that the use of croloquin be combined with tetracycline to balance the bacteria's mutation process. (27/edt)