Study finds gene mark­ers for drug-re­sis­tant malaria in Cam­bo­dia

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered ge­netic mark­ers in malaria par­a­sites linked to re­sis­tance to the key anti-malar­ial medicine piper­aquine, and say their work could help doc­tors and health of­fi­cials mon­i­tor and limit the spread of such re­sis­tance.

In re­search pub­lished in the Lancet In­fec­tious Dis­eases jour­nal, the team also said a sim­ple test us­ing blood taken from a fin­ger pin­prick could show whether a malaria pa­tient has par­a­sites with the ge­netic mark­ers - al­low­ing doc­tors to pre­scribe an al­ter­na­tive treat­ment.

Re­sis­tance to piper­aquine re­cently emerged in Cam­bo­dia and has led to the com­plete fail­ure of malaria treat­ment there. This and other spread­ing ar­eas of drug-re­sis­tance are threat­en­ing global ef­forts to elim­i­nate the mosquito-borne dis­ease.

Piper­aquine is a pow­er­ful drug which is used in many parts of the world in com­bi­na­tion with an­other anti-malar­ial drug called artemisinin. Re­sis­tance to artemisinin emerged around seven years ago in South­east Asia, but un­til re­cently the com­bi­na­tion of the two drugs had suc­cess­fully killed the malaria par­a­sites there. Now, how­ever, the emer­gence of piper­aquine re­sis­tance in Cam­bo­dia has led to treat­ment fail­ing al­to­gether.

“These malaria par­a­sites are now re­sis­tant to both drugs, and since they are no longer be­ing killed, re­sis­tance to both drugs will spread,” said Roberto Amato, who co-led the re­search at Bri­tain’s Sanger In­sti­tute.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, an es­ti­mated 200 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide were in­fected with malaria in 2015, and nearly half a mil­lion peo­ple died from the dis­ease. The vast ma­jor­ity of those killed by it are chil­dren un­der five.

Malaria is treat­able if it is caught early, but grow­ing drug re­sis­tance is be­com­ing a ma­jor prob­lem in many ar­eas. For this study, Amato’s team worked with Rick Fairhurst, a pro­fes­sor at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases at the United States Na­tional In­sti­tute of Health, and car­ried out what is known as a genome-wide as­so­ci­a­tion study to look at the ge­netic ba­sis be­hind piper­aquine re­sis­tance.

They looked at around 300 sam­ples from Cam­bo­dia, an­a­lyz­ing thou­sands of vari­a­tions in the DNA se­quence of the par­a­sites and com­par­ing these across sam­ples with dif­fer­ent lev­els of re­sis­tance to piper­aquine.

“By study­ing the genomes of these par­a­sites we found two ge­netic mark­ers that are linked with piper­aquine re­sis­tance, “Amato said. “Not only can we now use these mark­ers to mon­i­tor the spread of the drug re­sis­tant malaria, they will also help to­wards un­der­stand­ing as much as pos­si­ble about the bi­ol­ogy and evo­lu­tion of the (malaria) par­a­site.” — Reuters

WASH­ING­TON: In this Oct. 24, 2016 file photo, the Health­ 2017 web site home page is seen on a lap­top. — AP

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