London — Novartis began testing a new anti-malaria pill in Africa, advancing development of an alternative to its most effective treatment, which billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has said risks losing potency. Patients in Mali infected with the mosquito-borne parasite began receiving the experimental drug, known as KAF156, in combination with another medicine, the drug maker said on Monday. More than 500 children and adults across nine countries in Africa and Asia will be enrolled in the mid-stage study over the next few months. The research, being conducted with the Medicines for Malaria Venture, aims to determine the most effective and tolerable dose, and ultimately fill an unmet need for a novel treatment to stave off the development of drug resistance. Strains of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite that evade artemisinin, the most potent malaria-killer, have been detected in five Asian countries and risk taking hold in Africa, where there have been sporadic reports of reduce...

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