By M. Izham B. Hashim Pictures By Victor Lo
Malaria poses a serious health threat in Sabah where the risk of getting the disease from the deadly mosquitoes is among the highest in the country.University Malaysia Sabah UMS Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Shahril YusofUniversity Malaysia Sabah UMS Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Shahril Yusof

Sabah recorded the highest infection rate from the malaria parasite, plasmodium knowlesii, which causes a severe form of the disease in Northeastern Sabah, according to Vice Chancellor of University Malaysia Sabah UMS Professor Datuk Dr. Mohd Harun Abdullah.”Knowlesii infections has been blamed for five deaths in 2012, and accounted 78% of all malaria cases in Kudat with a total of 172 cases for the period of 2007-2008,” he said during the launch of the International Malaria Symposium at Kota Kinabalu on Tuesday.

The 2-day conference to discuss ‘New Challenges and Strategies in Malaria control,’ gathered 160 delegates from various countries which include England, China, Brazil, Thailand, Japan, China, Singapore, India, Pakiastan, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea.Dr. Harun said P. Knowlesi has the shortest replication period of 24 hours; infecting red blood cells rapidly with high loads of parasite densities which can lead to severe malaria and even death.The World Malaria Report in 2010 stated, malaria remains one of the deadliest infectious diseases which afflict half the world’s population, with an estimated 216 million cases and 655,000 deaths worldwide.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, human malaria is transmitted by female mosquitoes of the Anopheles genus or ‘Asian Tiger mosquito’, recognised by to its distinctive black and white stripe markings. University Malaysia SabahUMS Dean of the School Of Medicine Professor Dr D. Kamarudin D. Mudin 2nd from right, Chairman of the International Malaria Symposium Associate Professor Dr Chua Tock Hingfar right UMS Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Shahril Yusof 1st left

University Malaysia SabahUMS Dean of the School Of Medicine Professor Dr D. Kamarudin D. Mudin 2nd from right, Chairman of the International Malaria Symposium Associate Professor Dr Chua Tock Hingfar right UMS Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Shahril Yusof 1st left“The malaria threat is serious and deserves immediate attention as there are still major challenges to overcome despite best efforts to eradicate the deadly scourge,” he said.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital Infectious Diseases Physician, Dr Timothy WilliamQueen Elizabeth Hospital Infectious Diseases Physician, Dr Timothy WilliamIn Malaysia, he added that there are four known malaria species commonly found in the country, and Sabah recorded the highest infection rate caused by the malaria parasite, plasmodium knowlesi.Moving forward, he hopes that the conference will expand existing body of knowledge and create a better understanding to control the diseaseQueen Elizabeth Hospital Infectious Diseases Physician, Dr Timothy William highlighted that the incidence of knowlesi cases in the state has indicated a worrying uptrend since 2007.

He said that fatal cases are often misdiagnosed and mistaken for other malaria strains thus leading to inaccurate treatment.“Plasmodium knowlesi cases increased 10 folds from 59 cases in 2004 to 703 cases recorded in 2011,” he said.

The statewide increase appears to have started in southwestern Sabah before moving north-east. According to his findings, Dr Timothy said research showed that high infection rates are caused by widespread encroachment activities by humans into formerly forested areas, which exposed humans to the disease-carrying mosquitoes.In relation to this, he pointed out that further research is needed to gain deeper insight into the risk factors of knowlesi malaria in order to devise a control programmme that can address the increasing incidence of this disease.Also present during the event were Dean of School of Medicine; Professor Dr D Kamarudin D. Mudin and Chairman of the International Malaria Symposium 2013 Associate Professor Dr Chua Tock Hing.-Insight Sabah.Posted on April 18, 2013

Read more at: Insight Sabah – Health – International Experts meet on a deadly malaria strain.

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