Malaria resistance – it’s in the parasite’s genes
Monday, April 29, 2013
World Malaria Day this last week has brought a flood of stories. One of the more interesting concerns a scientific detective hunt in Cambodia, to find much-needed clues to the development of resistance in the malaria parasite to the life-saving artimisinin drugs which are key to continuing progress against the disease.
The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, responsible for spreading the disease across much of south-east Asia and Africa, has shown remarkable evolutionary ability in the face of a whole succession of drugs. In a bid to hang onto the curative powers of the artimisinin compounds, scientists from the Sanger Institute and Oxford University have been using genomic sequencing to try get a step ahead in Cambodia, where the first resistance to a number of antimalarials has been found. In their paper published in Nature Genetics, they say that for poorly-understood reasons, successive global waves of antimalarial drug resistance have originated in western Cambodia, including the most common form of chloroquine resistance and the most common forms of clinically significant pyrimethamine resistance and sulfadoxine resistance. And sure enough, this is where artemisinin resistance was also first seen.
- Health Care