‘Fingerprinting’ malaria parasite drug resistance offers new tool for tracking public health threat | Wellcome TrustPosted: April 29, 2013
“Our survey of genetic variation showed that Western Cambodian malaria parasites had a population structure that was strikingly different to those of the other countries we analysed. Different not just from countries in Africa, but also different from malaria parasite populations in neighbouring Thailand, Vietnam, and even Eastern Cambodia,” says Professor Dominic Kwiatkowski, senior author of the paper from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and University of Oxford.
“Initially, we thought our findings might be just an anomaly. But when we investigated further we found three distinct sub-populations of drug-resistant parasites that differ not only from the susceptible parasites but also from one another. It is as if there are different ethnic groups of artemisinin-resistant parasites inhabiting the same region.”
One important benefit of this genetic approach is that, even without knowing the precise genetic causes of drug resistance, researchers are able to quickly identify resistant strains – an important step towards identifying molecular markers to enable effective worldwide surveillance.