A new global malaria threat

A new strain of malaria in South East Asia has emerged as a serious global threat, say medical researchers. The new form of the disease that has earned the moniker “super malaria” because the parasite cannot be killed with the main anti-malarial drugs available and in use.

In a letter published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, a team of medical researchers at the Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok detail attribute the new threat to the malaria parasite developing resistance to the malaria drug artemisinin.

The new strain emerged in Cambodia and has spread to through parts of Thailand, Laos and has arrived in southern Vietnam, BBC News reported. The researchers said there was a real danger of malaria becoming untreatable and spreading further, even as far as Africa.

Artemisinin in combination with the drug piperaquine is the first line of treatment for malaria. But as artemisinin has become less effective, the parasite has now evolved to resist piperaquine too.

About 212 million people are infected with malaria each year. The disease is caused by a protozoan a parasite that is spread by blood-sucking mosquitoes, the parasite that has now become resistant to the malaria drugs. The researchers reported “alarming rates of failure” of these drugs, with treatment failing around one-third of the time in Vietnam and in up to 60% of cases in some regions of Cambodia.

Resistance to the drugs would be catastrophic in Africa, where 92% of all malaria cases happen.

Woman dies after bariatric surgery

A 46-year-old woman, who underwent a weight-loss surgery at a private hospital in Chennai, died early on Saturday less than a month after her surgery. Her family has alleged that the death was due to medical negligence by the hospital and have filed a police complaint, according to news reports.

The woman had weighed more 160 kg due to congenital conditions and sought treatment at the Lifeline Institute of Minimal Access in Chennai’s Kilpauk locality along with her son and two daughters. The woman underwent bariatric surgery on August 26 after the hospital’s founder and laproscopic surgeon Dr JS Rajkumar suggested the procedure. After her death on Saturday, her family members who also underwent the same surgery left the hospital.

The woman’s husband said that she developed complications after the surgery, had been in the intensive care unit for nearly a month and had had nine more surgeries since the first one.

Doctors at the hospital deny the charges of negligence and have assered that the family was briefed about the risks of surgery. Rajkumar said the family did not disclose full medical information to the doctors, specifically that she had been dependent on ventilator support when she had been hospitalised in Vellore a few years ago.

Rajkumar also clarified that the woman had undergone extensive pre-operative work ups and that her surgery had been supervised by the lung specialist, anaesthetist and general physician at the hospital. Despite this, her lungs progressively went into Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

Doctors protest Durga Puja model

Officials with the Indian Medical Association and the Bengal Medical Council have condemned a clay model of a doctor accepting a bribe set up in Kolkata’s Mohammed Ali Park Durga Puja pandal.

The model depicts a man in a white coat with a stethoscope taking money from a patient. The man has been placed next to the demon Mahisasura, whose defeat and demise is celebrated in the festivities. While the organisers say that the model aims to raise public awareness against fake doctors, the medical fraternity has objected on the grounds that the words “fake doctor” were not written anywhere to depict this. The medical associations have alleged that the depiction maligns the more than two lakh doctors in West Bengal.

The chairman of the Puja committee, however, has also said that photos of the model were circulated before it was completed, leading to unnecessary controversy.

However, the Indian Medical Association and its West Bengal unit have asked that the model be removed.