Genomic warfare to counter malaria drug resistance

February 16, 2010

Scientists battling malaria have earned a major victory. According to a Nature Genetics study, an international group of researchers has used genomics to decode the blueprint of Plasmodium falciparum - a strain of malaria most resistant to drugs that causes the most deaths around the world. The discovery may lead to advanced pharmaceuticals to fight the disease and prevent drug resistance among the 250 million people infected by malaria each year.

"Combating resistance is nothing short of an arms race," says lead author Dr. Philip Awadalla, a pediatrics professor at the Université de Montréal, a scientist at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center and scientific director of CARTaGENE. "As the malaria pathogen evolves, researchers must evolve with it to find ways to counter the disease."

The team decoded 200 malaria samples from Asia, Africa, Central America, South America and Papua New Guinea. Their goal was to identify how strains were becoming resistant to the eight anti-malaria drugs currently available.

"There are substantial genetic differences in malaria around the world," stresses Dr. Awadalla, noting African strains differ from Asia strains. "What has occurred is a combination of genetic drift, where genes segregated over space and time from differential environments, immune pressures and exposures to drugs."

As part of their genomic mapping, the research team found that Plasmodium falciparum recombined fastest in Africa. Dr. Awadalla compares malaria genomes to human genomes. In malaria, however, variation among some genetic material is so high and evolves so rapidly that the parasite can develop .

New clues garnered by this study, he says, "will allow pharmaceutical companies to create treatments that target the evolving malaria genome."

Explore further: Malaria top killer in Congo

More information: The article "Plasmodium falciparum genome-wide scans for positive selection, recombination hot spots and resistance to antimalarial drugs" is published in the journal Nature. www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ng.528.html

Related Stories

Malaria top killer in Congo

April 30, 2008

Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo say malaria is the primary cause of illness and death, despite prevention efforts.

Discovery provides new drug targets for malaria cure

January 11, 2010

Researchers are a step closer to developing new antimalarial drugs after discovering the normal function of a set of proteins related to the malaria parasite protein, which causes resistance to the front-line drug chloroquine. ...

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.