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Notre Dame researchers using novel method to combat malaria drug resistance
Date:4/5/2012

Researchers from the University of Notre Dame's Eck Institute for Global Health developed a "gene chip" to contribute to the identification of malaria drug resistance, an effort that will allow for real-time response in modified treatment strategies for this devastating disease.

The new discovery is described in a paper appearing in the latest early online edition of the journal Science. The team of researchers includes Notre Dame's Michael Ferdig, associate professor of biological sciences and doctoral student Becky Miller along with John Tan, managing director of the Genomics Core Facility, in collaboration with Tim Anderson of Texas Biomedical Research Institute and Francois Nosten, M.D., the Shoklo Malaria Unit in Thailand.

"Malaria has tormented humans forever and continues to thwart comprehensive control efforts," Ferdig said. "Resistance eventually emerges to every drug tried and vaccines are always 'on the horizon' but have not yet materialized."

Artemisinin, a natural product from a plant used in China for centuries, is the latest candidate drug to combat multi-drug resistant malaria. However, this last line of defense against malaria world-wide is increasingly falling victim to the problem of malaria drug-resistance. The loss of the drug would be devastating to malaria control efforts.

"For past drugs, most notably chloroquine, discovery of mutations causing resistance and an understanding of how resistance arose and spread has been 'retrospective': too late to do any good, after the drug has already failed," Ferdig said. "We can use our novel method to see resistance as it is emerging, respond in real-time and modify strategies to save a drug, such as protecting it with new formulations and combinations tailored to the specific location of emergence."

The Notre Dame team, working with the project leaders at Texas Biomedical, used the new genomics and bioinformatics approaches to investigate malaria drug-resistance. Tan
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Contact: Michael Ferdig
mferdig@nd.edu
574-631-9973
University of Notre Dame
Source:Eurekalert

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