Malaria could kill 200,000 more people a year if a drug-resistant strain escapes from Asia, experts warn.
The problem so far is confined to the Greater Mekong region of Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. But if it spreads, especially to Africa, health authorities fear a 25 per cent spike in the mosquito-borne disease's latest annual death toll of 655,000, which unofficially is thought to be much higher.
The issue will be addressed at a conference opening in Sydney today and attended by ministers from 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, which suffers 30 million malaria cases a year, resulting in 42,000 deaths.
Africa bears the brunt of the world's malaria cases, accounting for around 90 per cent of the 216 million people affected each year.