Focus shifts to malaria in monkeys

as April 25th is World Malaria Day, which once again shines a spotlight on the ongoing fight against malaria, which continues to impact millions of lives around the world.

Significant progress has been made in the fight against human-to-human transmission of malaria through mosquito bites, but new concerns are emerging.

Malaria in monkeys, caused by the Plasmodium knowlesi parasite, is steadily increasing in Sarawak and Malaysia, posing new challenges to researchers and public health officials.

On this World Malaria Day, it is essential to highlight the rise in the zoonotic disease malaria and the efforts being made to curb its spread.

As we delve into the complexity of this growing threat, the importance of prevention, early detection, and effective treatment cannot be overstated.

Explore the latest developments and insights from experts in the field who are working to protect vulnerable communities and pave the way to a malaria-free future.

There is growing concern in Sarawak and Malaysia about the transmission of simian malaria caused by the Plasmodium knowlesi parasite. Although the number of cases of human-to-human malaria transmission by mosquitoes has decreased significantly, the rise in zoonotic malaria from monkeys to humans has become a more pressing problem.

According to Professor Balbir Singh, founding director of the Center for Malaria Research at the University of Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), efforts to reduce human-to-human transmission have been successful and there have been no local cases of human malaria since 2018. He says he hasn’t.

However, the emergence of the monkey malaria parasite, Plasmodium knowlesi, poses a new threat, causing malaria cases with potentially fatal consequences.

In 2004, Dr. Balbir and the UNIMAS research team reported for the first time a significant number of human cases of monkey malaria, a zoonotic malaria, at Kapit Hospital.

These cases have since been reported across Southeast Asia and have been responsible for all malaria cases in Sarawak and Malaysia since 2018.

The numbers are alarming, with zoonotic malaria cases ranging from 1,813 to 4,214 between 2012 and 2022, a steady increase from 509 cases reported in 2010.

Contrary to popular belief, climate change is not a major concern in Sarawak or Southeast Asia.

Instead, zoonotic malaria, caused by large numbers of monkeys infected with Plasmodium knowlesi and other malaria parasites, poses the greatest threat.

Efforts to control zoonotic malaria are further complicated by recent discoveries revealing the presence of six other species of malaria parasites found in monkeys that can infect humans.

While children in Africa and countries where malaria is highly endemic are more susceptible to severe malaria and its deadly effects, zoonotic malaria infections in Sarawak are primarily among adults engaged in forest-related activities. High risk.

Anopheles mosquitoes, which transmit monkey malaria, bite primarily in the evening and at night, increasing the vulnerability of adults involved in activities in and around forests.

Dr. Balbir and his team have made important discoveries that highlight knowles malaria as a prevalent, and potentially deadly, zoonotic disease in Southeast Asia.

However, in this alarming situation, Dr. Balbir highlights the precautions that the public can take to avoid contracting malaria.

To avoid being bitten by the Aedes mosquito, which is found in rural areas rather than urban environments, personal protection measures such as wearing mosquito repellent spray, long-sleeved shirts, and pants are recommended.

However, these precautions may not be practical when venturing into forests or forest fringes.

Additionally, it is recommended to take anti-malarial drugs before engaging in activities such as trekking, hunting, logging, and farming in jungle areas, but this is cost-effective and impractical for many people. There is a possibility.

Malaria is a treatable disease, but early detection is important to prevent serious consequences.

Dr. Balbir emphasizes the importance of informing doctors, especially in urban areas, about travel to rural areas so that malaria can be considered during diagnosis. Failure to test for malaria due to misdiagnosis, such as believing it is dengue fever, can have serious consequences.

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Malaria Report 2022 reports that there were 247 million cases of malaria worldwide and 625,000 deaths in 2021.

Dr Balbir’s extensive research on Nowursi malaria is internationally recognized and has been featured by media outlets including Reuters, BBC, Bloomberg, Nature, ProMed, NDMT News and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

His contributions have been recognized nationally, including being elected a Fellow of the Malaysian Academy of Sciences, recognized as one of Malaysia’s Top Research Scientists in 2012, and receiving the prestigious Merdeka Award for his pioneering research on Naurusi malaria. He has received many accolades such as receiving awards.

Additionally, he was a member of the Lancet Commission on Malaria Elimination and an advisor to the WHO on the zoonotic disease malaria.

In conclusion, cases of zoonotic malaria continue to increase in Sarawak and Malaysia, and the focus is shifting from human-to-human transmission by mosquitoes to the transmission of malaria parasites in monkeys.

Efforts to control the zoonotic disease malaria face major challenges due to the presence of multiple Plasmodium species in monkeys. Public awareness, personal protective measures, early detection, and appropriate treatment remain critical to combating this emerging threat to public health.

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