Magazine article USA TODAY

Reemerging Strain Resists Antibiotics

Magazine article USA TODAY

Reemerging Strain Resists Antibiotics

Article excerpt

Malaria remains a serious global health problem, killing more than 1,000,000 people per year. Treatment of the mosquito-borne illness relies on antibiotics, and the emergence of drug-resistant malaria is of growing concern. Scientists, however, have analyzed the genomic features of a Peruvian parasite population, identifying the genetic base for resistance to a common antibiotic and gaining new insights that could improve the efficacy of diagnosis and treatment strategies.

The World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, began efforts to eliminate malaria in the mid-20th century and had made significant strides in curtailing the disease. However, by the 1990s, malaria again was on the rise due to the banning of DDT and emergence of drug-resistant parasites, and today much remains unknown about the genetic basis of resistance.

Researcher Elizabeth Winzeler of The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif., and colleagues from the U.S. and Peru expected that, by using genomic methods to analyze the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium falciparum in a geographic area where malaria previously had been eradicated and recently reemerged, they could identify selected regions of the genome that contain genes underlying drug resistance.

"We were surprised to find that the parasite populations in Peru were much more homogeneous than expected," Winzeler notes. The data suggests that the malaria parasites from Iquitos [a city in the Amazonian lowlands] patients are closely related, with some individuals hat boring parasites that nearly are clones of each other. …

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