Resistance to combination drugs threatens efforts to eradicate malaria

June 19, 2013
Resistance to combination drugs threatens efforts to eradicate malaria
Credit: Shutterstock

With 300-500 million people falling ill to malaria each year, this debilitating tropical disease remains a global problem. Current combination drug therapy is still generally effective, but recent signs of resistance present scientists with a new challenge.

Malaria is major issue in Africa, in particular, where drug resistance in the 1990s contributed to a higher than usual death rate from the disease. However, Dr Henk Schallig from the Royal Tropical Institute in the Netherlands is hopeful this can be prevented from happening again.

This comes as results are emerging from the five-year MALACTRES project. Research has focused on multi-drug resistance in malaria under artemisinin-based (ACT). The research team has assessed specific genetic markers and worked on innovative, rapid and simple diagnostics.

Dr Schallig explains: 'Many drugs to treat malaria are deemed to be ineffective, particularly in rural Africa. So there has been an urgent need for more affordable, safe and effective treatment alternatives. ACT is currently the mainstay of therapy. It is efficacious, but at risk due to emerging resistance. This is why we have developed sensitive tools for the prompt detection of malaria, and to tackle the growing resistance of parasites to existing anti-.'

The project has been able to investigate the existence of specific associated with increased parasite transmission after treatment. Clinical trials have been supported by seven institutes across Europe and Africa which have helped to improve the diagnosis and treatment of malaria. They recently conducted ACT trials in Kenya and and assessed the impact of various genes on parasite prevalence, longevity and transmission.

The MALACTRES research consortium has also developed molecular diagnostic assays based on (PCR). PCR is a relatively cost-effective and simple method to quickly diagnose diseases, identify bacteria and viruses and carry out other forms of genetic identification. In this case it was used to detect all known parasite species directly from the blood of potentially infected individuals, via field tests in Nigeria and Kenya. Tests have also been developed to identify and diagnose the presence of resistant malaria parasite strains, in particular Plasmodium falciparum.

Clinical studies have been a major part of this project, although Dr Schallig points out that there have been some challenges along the way: 'Climate change has delayed our studies, as in the case of Africa where changing weather patterns are affecting the rainy seasons, which makes it harder to predict when the transmission of malaria may occur. Now it is difficult to predict transmission patterns and people in East Africa are starting to complain that it is now too cold!'

Despite this complication, the MALACTRES study will significantly contribute to the long-term fight against malaria by providing invaluable insight into candidate implicated in the process. Although the project is due to end in the summer, the project team is hopeful of carrying on with their research using the knowledge already gained to continue the fight to eradicate .

Dr Schallig says he is keen to keep the MALACTRES 'brand' going. The project aims to secure further funding to ensure that the tests become readily available and to further study the background of ACT . 'The consortium is also committed to publishing our research findings, and a number of high-profile publications will appear once the project ends,' he concludes.

Explore further: Drug resistance may make malaria parasites vulnerable to other substances

More information: MALACTRES www.malactres.eu

Related Stories

Drug resistance may make malaria parasites vulnerable to other substances

June 4, 2013
Malaria parasites that develop resistance to the most effective class of anti-malarial drugs may become susceptible to other treatments as a result. The discovery could reveal potential new drug options, which would be essential ...

Gene clues point to Cambodia for resistant malaria

April 28, 2013
Gene analysis of malaria parasites has pinpointed western Cambodia as the hotspot of strains that are dangerously resistant to artesiminin, the frontline drug against the disease, scientists said on Sunday.

Study finds early signs of malaria drug resistance in Africa

April 27, 2012
Africa's deadliest malaria parasite has shown resistance in lab tests to one of the most powerful drugs on the market -- a warning of possible resistance to follow in patients, scientists said Friday.

New malaria test kit gives a boost to elimination efforts worldwide

May 17, 2013
A new, highly sensitive blood test that quickly detects even the lowest levels of malaria parasites in the body could make a dramatic difference in efforts to tackle the disease in the UK and across the world, according to ...

New malaria drug requires just one dose and appears twice as effective as existing regimen

October 17, 2012
Scientists are reporting development of a new malaria drug that, in laboratory tests, has been twice as effective as the best current medicine against this global scourge and may fight off the disease with one dose, instead ...

Malaria's severity reset by mosquito

May 30, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—For the first time, researchers have proven that the way in which malaria is transmitted to the host affects how severe the resulting infection will be.

Recommended for you

Phase 3 trial confirms superiority of tocilizumab to steroids for giant cell arteritis

July 26, 2017
A phase 3 clinical trial has confirmed that regular treatment with tocilizumab, an inhibitor of interleukin-6, successfully reduced both symptoms of and the need for high-dose steroid treatment for giant cell arteritis, the ...

A large-scale 'germ trap' solution for hospitals

July 26, 2017
When an infectious airborne illness strikes, some hospitals use negative pressure rooms to isolate and treat patients. These rooms use ventilation controls to keep germ-filled air contained rather than letting it circulate ...

Researchers report new system to study chronic hepatitis B

July 25, 2017
Scientists from Princeton University's Department of Molecular Biology have successfully tested a cell-culture system that will allow researchers to perform laboratory-based studies of long-term hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections. ...

Male hepatitis B patients suffer worse liver ailments, regardless of lifestyle

July 25, 2017
Why men with hepatitis B remain more than twice as likely to develop severe liver disease than women remains a mystery, even after a study led by a recent Drexel University graduate took lifestyle choices and environments ...

Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients

July 25, 2017
Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Research examines lung cell turnover as risk factor and target for treatment of influenza pneumonia

July 24, 2017
Influenza is a recurring global health threat that, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths every year, most due to influenza pneumonia, or viral pneumonia. Infection with ...

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.