Two Gene Markers Connected To Drug-Resistant Malaria

For anti-malarial treatment failures, drug resistance is one of the principle reasons and impedes containment strategies.

Two genetic markers were strongly connected with the malaria parasite’s ability to resist piperaquine, an anti-malarial drug.

A frontline malaria treatment is rapidly losing power in Cambodia because of the fast spread of drug-resistant parasites, as per a research published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The presence of piperaquine- resistant malaria parasites in several Cambodian provinces was confirmed earlier this year by scientists from the US National Institutes of Health and their partners.

Presently, by looking at the complete genomes of 297 parasites isolated from Cambodian malaria patients to a reference malaria parasite genome, the group has distinguished two genetic markers that are firmly connected with the resistance from piperaquine.

Conducted by US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) researcher Dr. Rick Fairhurst and Dr. Roberto Amato of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (WTSI), Cambridge, UK, the group also included scientists from the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and from Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand.

The principal genetic marker they identified, while related to drug resistance, likely does not play a functional role in enabling parasites to resist piperaquine, as per the researchers.

In contrast, the second resistance marker distinguished may play a functional part. That marker is an increased number of copies of the genes plasmepsin II and plasmepsin III in those parasites that resist piperaquine.

A simple finger pinprick blood test can demonstrate if a malaria patient has parasites with the genetic markers.

Assuming this is the case, the scientists say that an alternative drug combination, artesunate-mefloquine, should be utilized because the current frontline treatment combining fast-acting dihydroartemisinin with long-lasting piperaquine is probably going to fail in this situation.

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