Epidemiology of drug resistance in malaria

Acta Trop. 1994 Mar;56(2-3):143-56. doi: 10.1016/0001-706x(94)90060-4.


In the late 1950's chloroquine resistance to Plasmodium falciparum occurred in South America and on the Indochina Subcontinent. Since then it has conquered most of the areas where the parasite species is endemic. This has necessitated the use of alternative drugs such as sulphonamide-pyrimethamine combinations, quinine/tetracyclines, mefloquine, halofantrine, and recently also artemisinin-based compounds. In wide areas of South-east Asia, western Oceania and South America sulphonamide-pyrimethamine combinations have lost adequate efficacy. The situation is most serious in the Thai/Cambodia and Thai/Myanmar border areas where multiresistance necessitated the shift to the last line drug, i.e., the artemisinin derivatives. Selection of resistant parasites due to drug pressure, and their subsequent propagation by local transmission and migration of reservoirs are key factors in the dynamics of drug resistance. Selection is the result of the interplay of parasite, drug and human host, and is largely influenced by immune factors and the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of the drug. Spread of resistance is determined by eco-epidemiological factors among which migration and vectorial parameters play a major role. Rational drug use, especially adequate, monitored, therapeutic administration according to strict criteria, should curb the onset and spread of resistance, but this concept may not be readily accepted by health services whose primary goal is clinical amelioration of the disease rather than the more stringent target of epidemiologically desirable results.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimalarials / pharmacokinetics
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology*
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / drug therapy*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / epidemiology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / drug effects*


  • Antimalarials