METHODS: Blood was drawn from patients infected with P. falciparum in seven sentinel provinces along Thai international borders with Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Malaysia. In vitro parasite sensitivity was tested using the World Health Organization's microtest (mark III) (between 1994 and 2002) and the histidine-rich protein-2 (HRP2)-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (in 2010). Following World Health Organization protocol, at least 30 isolates were collected for each province and year represented in this study. Where possible, t-tests were used to test for significant differences.
RESULTS: There appears to be little variation across study sites with regard to parasite sensitivity to chloroquine. Quinine resistance appears to have been rising prior to 1997, but has subsequently decreased. Mefloquine sensitivity appears high across the provinces, especially along the north-western border with Myanmar and the eastern border with Cambodia. Finally, the data suggest that parasite sensitivity to artemisinin and its derivatives is significantly higher in provinces along the north-western border with Myanmar.
CONCLUSIONS: Parasite sensitivity to anti-malarials in Thailand is highly variable over time and largely mirrors official drug use policy. The findings with regard to reduced sensitivity to artemisinin derivatives are supported by recent reports of reduced parasite clearance associated with artemisinin. This trend is alarming since artemisinin is considered the last defence against malaria. Continued surveillance in Thailand, along with increased collaboration and surveillance across the entire Greater Mekong sub-region, is clearly warranted.