Africa: Parasites Hint At Antimalarial Resistance

Malarial parasites from Sub-Saharan Africa could be acquiring mutations that make them resistant to artemisinin, the backbone of antimalarial therapy.

A team of researchers from Canada and the United Kingdom studied parasites from travellers who returned to Canada with malaria after trips abroad between April 2008 and January 2011.

They found that 11 of the 28 parasites grown in the laboratory had a mutation that made them resistant to artemether, one of the artemisinin group of antimalarials.

All 11 came from Africa (from Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania), the researchers reported last month (27 April) in Malaria Journal.

“We are seeing statistical evidence of resistance in the test tube,” author Sanjeev Krishna, a researcher at the University of London, United Kingdom, told SciDev.Net. “If this progresses, and becomes more severe and established, it is likely to cause resistance in terms of treatment failures.”

But it is still not clear whether resistance is already affecting treatment in the field.

“At the moment there is not evidence for these types of treatments failing in an important way in African countries, but we need to be alert,” said Krishna.

Story by Joanna Carpenter: SciDev.Net .