Malaria parasite's drug resistance decoded

Malaria parasite
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Malaria parasites slow down their own growth to develop resistance against powerful anti-malarial drugs, a study has revealed. According to an international team of researchers from 11 countries, knowing how the malaria parasite develops drug resistance will help healthcare workers treat malaria patients in a better manner.

Singapore: Malaria parasites slow down their own growth to develop resistance against powerful anti-malarial drugs, a study has revealed. According to an international team of researchers from 11 countries, knowing how the malaria parasite develops drug resistance will help healthcare workers treat malaria patients in a better manner.

These researchers studied the resistance of malaria parasites to Artemisinin drug, used in combination therapies to treat malaria. "To find out exactly what the parasite cell is doing to protect itself against Artemisinin, we correlated the clinical data of the 1,000 samples with functional genomics results using our own customised techniques," said lead researcher Zbynek Bozdech, an associate professor at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.

The researchers analysed 1,000 malaria samples taken from patients in the area of the Greater Mekong Subregion that includes countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. The malaria parasite uses two major ways by which it becomes resistant to Artemisinin, the findings showed.

"First, the malaria parasite increased its capacity to repair the damage caused by the anti-malarial drug which gives it a higher chance of survival," Singaporean researcher Sachel Mok from NTU said. "Second, because the drug is more effective against the parasite at its later stage of development, the parasite slowed down its growth so it could survive longer in the younger stages," Mok added.

"Using methods like gene expression analysis, we linked these two phenomena to a gene named K13, which was previously suggested to be associated with drug resistance but it was not clear how," the researcher further added. The study appeared in the journal Science.

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