National Center Testing New Malaria Drug Mix in K Speu

October 16, 2003
By Nick Engstrom
The Cambodia Daily

The National Malaria Center and a team of Chinese doctors are in the middle of trials for a new combination malaria treatment, the director of the center said Wednesday.

The trials are happening in Kompong Speu province. Patients from remote forests and villages in Oral district who have malaria are brought to a health center and given the new drug, called Artekin, which is manufactured in China.

"We have already tested the malaria treatment on over 100 patients," said Dr Duong Socheat, director of the National Malaria Center.

"But we will test a total of over 300 by the trial's end in January," he added.

Duong Socheat said that while more patients in the trial would mean more accurate results, the center cannot test the treatment on too many people because the Center does not have the money for extensive, costly research.

The patients involved in the trials stay in a hostel for one week as their blood is tested. The Center tests the patients' blood every few days.

"We want to see the parasites during the course of treatment. We want to see which day they disappear," Duong Socheat said.

After taking blood from the patients who have been treated with the drug, the Cambodian and Chinese doctors smear a drop of each patient's blood on a plate. A very thin piece of paper is placed over each plate to simulate human skin.
The doctors hold the plate up to the mosquitoes they have captured from the province. The mosquito "bites" the paper and extracts the blood, just as it would a villager in the forest.

Then the doctors dissect the mosquito and check its glands for malarial gametocytes. If there are none, then the drug is effective.

Duong Socheat said Artekin is a more advanced form of the combination therapy currently used to treat malaria patients in the country. Cambodia employs an artemecinine-based drug added with Piperaquine, which is more than 90 percent effective in treating malaria. Artekin adds a drug called Primaquine to the mix.

Duong Socheat said he is was impressed that thus far the new combination seems to have no adverse side effects and, so far, a 100 percent efficacy on the patients tested .

Artekin has not been approved by the World Health Organization. At a WHO conference in Geneva last month, it was estimated that Artekin will not be approved until 2006.

"Cambodians with malaria will have to wait at least three years for the drug to be legally and widely available," Duong Socheat said.