Global antimalarial drug resistance network launches quality assurance scheme

WWARN Published Date

Oxford, UK, February 12, 2010:  A new initiative to assure the quality of data from laboratories investigating patient responses to antimalarial drugs is being launched by the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN).

WWARN aims to establish a global collaboration to ensure that anyone affected by malaria receives efficacious and safe drug treatment. The network, based at the Centre for Tropical Medicine at the University of Oxford, has been set up to map the emergence and spread of resistance to antimalarial drugs so that global efforts to control the disease are founded on reliable information.

Laboratories participating in the scheme will receive reference standards and samples, free of charge in the first year of operation, and will be eligible to take part in a proficiency testing programme. WWARN will also assist and advise laboratories to solve any quality or methodological issues that be highlighted.

Malaria treatment may fail for many reasons, aside from parasite resistance. For example, the drug may be poorly absorbed or have unusual properties in the individual patient, or the dose may be insufficient for therapeutic effect. 

“With signs that malaria parasites in certain regions of SouthEast Asia may be developing resistance to our most effective drug treatments, we must be confident that laboratory data correctly represents the current situation in the field”, explains Dr Niklas Lindegardh, Director of the WWARN quality assurance (QA) scheme based in the Mahidol University–Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Bangkok, Thailand.

Malaria is preventable and treatable, yet one million people die from malaria each year, most of them children under five years of age. More than 40% of the world’s population are at risk of the disease. These people mainly live in the poorest countries of the world and are least likely to have access to effective control methods, including supplies of safe, quality-assured medicines. Prevention of infection is one important facet of malaria control, but with no effective vaccine against malaria, treatment relies on antimalarial drugs. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the emergence of resistance to these drugs is a crucial problem, which could seriously undermine efforts to control the disease.

Dr Philippe Guérin, Executive Director of WWARN comments, “WWARN is working in close collaboration with the World Health Organization’s Global Malaria Programme. Together, we will collate and validate methods to compare pharmacological, laboratory and genetic measures of parasite drug resistance, in parallel with the clinical responses to treatment. Since small changes in one or more of these factors may provide early warning of emerging resistance, it is absolutely critical that data are trustworthy, robust and comparable with researchers in other locations around the world.”

Further information about the QA scheme can be found on WWARN’s website at

WWARN Contacts:

Dr Philippe Guerin, Executive Director or Dr Val Tate, Media Relations

Email:  or



WWARN aims to establish a global collaboration to ensure that anyone affected by malaria receives efficacious and safe drug treatment, providing geographically relevant and timely, quality-assured intelligence on a web-based platform to track the emergence and spread of antimalarial drug resistance. Developing and building strategic collaborations with the World Health Organization, Ministries of Health in endemic countries and other organisations and stakeholders involved in tackling malaria, WWARN will promote training and build sustainable capacity in malaria endemic countries to strengthen the collection, analysis, interpretation and dissemination of high quality data on antimalarial drug resistance. WWARN also provides a forum for global exchange of scientific and public health information on antimalarial drug resistance. Oxford University will provide the necessary IT infrastructure and software for sharing datasets on this scale.

Oxford University’s Medical Sciences Division is one of the largest biomedical research centres in Europe. It represents almost one-third of Oxford University’s income and expenditure, and two-thirds of its external research income. Oxford’s world-renowned global health programme is a leader in the fight against infectious diseases (such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and avian flu) and other prevalent diseases (such as cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes). Key to its success is a long-standing network of dedicated Wellcome Trust-funded research units in Asia (Thailand, Laos and Vietnam) and Kenya, and work at the MRC Unit in The Gambia. Long-term studies of patients around the world are supported by basic science at Oxford and have led to many exciting developments, including potential vaccines for tuberculosis, malaria and HIV, which are in clinical trials.