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Parasites resistant to malaria drugs, ‘inadequate care’ for MS sufferers and how taller, thinner women have evolved to have more children

New drug-resistant strains of the parasite that causes malaria have been identified by scientists, the BBC reports.

Researchers found that the new strains are able to withstand treatment by artemisinin - a frontline drug in the treatment of malaria.

The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, said organisms were first found in western Cambodia in 2008, but the problem has since spread to other parts of southeast Asia.

The lead author, Dr Olivo Miotto, of the University of Oxford and Mahidol University in Thailand, said: ‘All the most effective drugs that we have had in the last few decades have been one by one rendered useless by the remarkable ability of this parasite to mutate and develop resistance.’

‘Artemisinin right now works very well. It is the best weapon we have against the disease, and we need to keep it.’

Thousands of people with multiple sclerosis are not getting drugs or the care and support they need, according to a support charity.

The Guardian reports that six out of ten people with MS are not receiving ‘disease-modifying treatments’, which are not cures but which may reduce the frequency and intensity of attacks and slow progression of the disability.

The MS Society surveyed more than 10,000 people with the condition and found there were postcode variations, with people in Northern Ireland twice as likely as those in Wales to be taking drug therapy.

In Europe, only Poland and Romania have a lower prescription rate for MS drugs, they added.

The Daily Mail brings us the news that taller, skinnier women have evolved to have more babies than their shorter counterparts due to improved nutrition and healthcare, researchers found.

The study, carried out by Durham University, followed two communities of women in Gambia, but researchers said the trend could also be observed in the wider world.

The researchers analysed data collected by the UK Medical Research Council between 1956 and 2010 about the two communities, which showed they experienced significant demographic shifts from high mortality and fertility rates to rapidly declining ones.

As the birth rates declined, the women’s weight and height changed too. Analysis showed that selection initially favoured short and heavier women, but by the end of the period, this preference had reversed, with taller, thin women having more children than average.

Dr Ian Rickard, lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, said: ‘This is a reminder that declines in mortality rates do not necessarily mean that evolution stops, but that it changes.’

‘Our results are important because the majority of human populations have either recently undergone, or are currently undergoing, a demographic transition from high to low fertility and mortality rates.’ 

‘Therefore the temporal dynamics of the evolutionary processes revealed here may reflect the shifts in evolutionary pressures being experienced by human societies generally.’