Saturday, October 16, 2010

Troublesome genes

Artemisinin, a plant-based remedy, is one of the most effective drugs used to combat malaria. "In many countries where the [malaria] parasite has developed resistance to previously effective common treatments such as chloroquine, artemisinin remains the only effective treatment against the infection. However, malarial resistance to artemisinin appears to be developing, potentially creating problems in controlling malaria."

A recent study conducted "by scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, used emerging technology to scan the genetic fingerprint of drug resistant parasites that infect rodents. This technology allows rapid identification of genes that enable the parasite to withstand existing drug treatments", particularly the "gene that enables the parasite" to resist treatment with artemisinin.

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."

Paul Hunt, Axel Martinelli, Katarzyna Modrzynska, Sofia Borges, Alison Creasey, Louise Rodrigues, Dario Beraldi, Laurence Loewe, Richard Fawcett, Sujai Kumar, Marian Thomson, Urmi Trivedi, Thomas D Otto, Arnab Pain, Mark Blaxter, Pedro Cravo. Experimental evolution, genetic analysis and genome re-sequencing reveal the mutation conferring artemisinin resistance in an isogenic lineage of malaria parasites. BMC Genomics, 2010; 11 (1): 499 DOI: 10.1186/1471-2164-11-499

University of Edinburgh (2010, October 12). Gene linked to drug resistance in malaria pinpointed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 16, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/10/101012101629.htm