"The migration of Venezuelans and, in some cases, their arrival in illegal gold mining has influenced the country's increased malaria cases since 2015, especially in counties such as Guapi on the Pacific coast."
This is the conclusion of Professor Vladimir Corredor, from the Faculty of Medicine of the National University (UN), after conducting some blood tests on a group of patients diagnosed in that Cauca population, details of which were taken by the UN news agency. .
According to the report, Guapi is the second municipality most affected in the department of Cauca by this disease, with 83 cases, after Timbiquí with 289 cases, according to the National Health Surveillance System (Sivigila), which registers 422 cases.
"In recent years, the problem has skyrocketed, and so we recorded it in the samples collected by professionals from the department's Ministry of Health, where we show that some of them come from Venezuela, more than 1,500 km distance, "he said. teacher
As he explained, when the mining enters, it opens up wells that become mosquito breeding grounds, which increases its density and thus increases the circulation of the parasite. If migrants arrive from distant places, these may in turn bring genetic variants of these parasites that have not been seen here and possibly have resistance to antimalarial drugs.
Network of weak diagnoses
The cases increased due to the presence of the parasites Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum, both transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, especially the second, which is the most virulent. It is considered that the cause of this increase is due to the fact that the country has weakened the network of diagnosis of treatment.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria cases in Venezuela have steadily increased in recent years: from almost 36,000 in 2009 to over 406,000 in 2017.
Likewise, an official document prepared by the Pan American Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV / AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Ministry of Health of Venezuela informs that this epidemic persists in more than nine Venezuelan states.
Data from January 1 and July 14, 2017, compared to the same dates of 2018, recorded an increase in malaria cases, from 449 to 858, according to data from the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Colombia.
Miners, focus of infection
"In Guapi, we have seen that epidemic peaks are closely related to mining, since many of the miners do not belong to the subsidized regime, so if there is no control system in place, the problem will persist. reach that target of infection, which are the illegal miners, "added the researcher.
In this sense, the academy proposes to improve the microscopy network in public hospitals, demand more from the private network and improve the control systems, including the mobile diagnostic units, so that they can be transferred to the places where they are presented. the epidemic peaks.
The UN academic noted that another major problem is that antimalarials are becoming increasingly resistant because patients use drugs that have not been formulated by health professionals, or use the one that does not correspond to the type of parasite
Plasmodium falciparum malaria uses the drug Artemether and lumefantrine, a derivative of artemisinin, a very important drug for its rapid action, and for the treatment of malaria by Plasmodium vivax, chloroquine and primaquine.
"What we are seeing is that people infected with Plasmodium falciparum are not using other drugs, including Chloroquine and the combination Sulfadoxine-Pyrimethamine, which generated resistance to Artemisinin, which would ultimately mean a very large failure. if these parasites spread throughout the country, since there would be no way to treat them, "he said.
For this study, the municipality microscopist was trained, who took the samples on filter paper, in which a drop of infected blood is deposited and then the DNA is extracted to do the sequencing. Then the infected red blood cells are separated from other cells to make the analysis.
Professor Corredor indicated that the study was conducted to have a profile of parasitic mutations in this region, which would allow inferring about antimalarial resistance and demographics of the parasite that is linked to urban demography.