Published: Monday 15 April 1996

The Thai-Burmese border is not only home to ethnic rebels, wandering refugees and gem smugglers but also to deadly drug-resistant malarial parasites. According to experts, the region is the epicentre of drug-resistant malaria. Doctors in a Thai refugee camp in Mae La, are racing against time to develop better drugs and vaccines to control the disease. Due to unknown reasons, resistance begins in this particular area from where it spreads to all over the world. Francois Nosten, a French doctor in the camp, says that research findings, based on the num- ber of infected patients and the intrinsic resistance of parasites, had shown that the region had the highest degree of drug resistance in the world. Apparently, the first instances of drug resistance appeared in gem miners from Cambodia years ago, who travelled across Thailand to Burma, Bangladesh and then to India and finally, after 30 years, to Africa.

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