Researchers at Case Western Reserve University developed techniques to quickly identify evolution of drug resistance in strains of malaria. Their goal is to enable the medical community to react quickly to inevitable resistance and thereby save lives while increasing the lifespan of drugs used against the disease.
Currently, disease monitoring requires months of clinical trials. The new methods can provide more information in just days, and far cheaper.
The investigators have tailored genetic assays and mathematical analysis to uncover and track drug immunity of the deadliest form of the disease, caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum. But, the technology could be used for other forms of malaria and other diseases.
The investigators report their work in the online journal BioMed Central Genetics. The link: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2156/11/57.
"Each year an estimated 1 million to 2.5 million children die as a direct result of malaria; a conservative estimate is that one child dies of malaria every 30 seconds," said Peter Zimmerman, a professor of international health at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. "More accurate surveillance of drug resistance in malaria parasite populations will reduce the number of deaths."
Earlier detection of resistance enables health care workers to adjust treatments sooner, ideally before resistance becomes fully established in a population and eliminates a drug from use, he explained.
"There is no vaccine for malarial parasites; we depend on drugs and the biggest threat is the parasites continue to evolve resistance," said Carol Hopkins Sibley, a professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington and scientific director of the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network. She was not involved in the research.
"They've come up with a better way to identify resistance," H
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Case Western Reserve University