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Scientists get insight into malaria resistances

Every year around 250 million people are infected by malaria. Of those, 863,000 people die because the parasite has become resistant to most of the available drugs. In many parts of the world, the only drug that is still effective is artemisinin, a plant-based remedy. However, there are signs that resistance against artemisinin is increasing. This could have a severe impact on the efforts to control malaria.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the New University of Lisbon have identified a gene that makes the parasite resistant to artemisinin. The team used a new technology that allows for very fast identification of genes. They scanned the genetic fingerprint of resistant parasites, infected rodents and linked the gene to the drug-resistance. This discovery could be a step forward in the control of human malaria and might lead to the development of more effective drugs, saving many lives.

Dr Paul Hunt, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, said, “This knowledge from rodent malaria parasites opens up new directions that will allow this gene to be investigated in human malaria. This may help track the evolution of drug resistance and may eventually enable the design of alternative, effective drugs.”

The scientists were funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and published their work in the BMC Genomics.

Thilo Reich

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