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Ecotourism spreads malaria globally
Published on: Thursday, November 27, 2014
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KOTA KINABALU: Visitors or tourists from all over the world to ecotourism attractions or sites in Southeast Asia have been known to bring back monkey malaria or P. knowlesi to their home countries as far as Sweden and Japan, besides other cases to Australia, New Zealand and other parts of Europe and the Americas.This was revealed at the internationally collaborated malaria study programme tagged 'Monkeybar' Mid-Project Workshop where participants were told that Malaysia's effort in mosquito malaria vectors control has not been effective over the years.

The first documented case of monkey malaria or P. knowlesi was an infected American citizen who brought the disease back from Pahang to the United States in 1965.

A visiting attendee was worried because prior to the function he had spent time in a boat with other East Asia tourists to see Proboscis monkeys at a tourism site in Sabah and asked if Proboscis monkeys carry simian malaria parasite Plasmodium knowlesi.

"I realise now that we have been serving ourselves to mosquitoes in close contact with the Proboscis monkeys," Dr Soo said.

An expert from the Danau Girang Field Research Centre replied that no one has sure knowledge whether Proboscis monkeys carry simian malaria parasite Plasmodium knowlesi and research needs to be done on the matter to find out more. And he was advised to seek medical attention should he suffers from fever.

The 'Monkeybar' main hypothesis involves understanding that deforestation and changes in environment conditions and human-macaque contact are key drivers increasing the risk of P. knowlesi infection in humans.

Prof Chris Drakeley, Director of the Malaria Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Principal Investigator of the 'Monkeybar' project presented his paper 'Understanding the epidemiology of P. knowlesi: the need for interdisciplinary research' and the progress of the project funded by the United Kingdom Research Council for five years with an interesting assessment of the use of drones to map potential risk areas in Sabah, with Dr Timothy William presenting his 'Clinical Management of Plasmodium knowlesi in Sabah results from the ACTNOW and other studies in Sabah'.

Prof Chris visited the field research sites in Kudat Monday. QEH Infectious Disease Physician Dr Timothy William was commended for his international collaborative efforts to combat malaria.

"Distinguishing between P. falciparum, P. vivex and P. knowlesi in a region where all three species frequently occur is challenging. Misdiagnosis can potentially lead to inappropriate treatment, including chloroquine therapy for P. falciparum and a lack of anti-relapse therapy for P. vivex."

Dr Indra Vythilingam of Universiti Malaya presented her paper on 'Vectors of Plasmodium knowlesi transmission', all working towards the eradication of malaria in highly infected areas like Kudat.



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