Researchers from Juntendo University have reported that mutant variants of the malaria-causing parasite are spreading in Africa. These mutants are reportedly resistant to artemisinin, the primary drug used for treating the disease, according to the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Notably, Africa accounts for 90% of malaria cases and deaths across the globe. The Juntendo team has seemingly identified the genotypes that are responsible for the resistance, which would help in detecting the parasite.
For the uninitiated, artemisinin-resistant P. falciparum parasites have been discovered recently in Africa, presenting a serious threat to malaria control in the region. As per reliable sources, Toshihiro Mita, along with colleagues from Juntendo University, has now performed the quantitative study of the parasite’s clinical artemisinin resistance in northern Uganda and found the parasite mutants linked with resistance.
Reportedly, the team analyzed data collected between 2015 and 2019 at a hospital located in Gulu, Uganda. In their study, the researchers apparently examined the effect of treatment with artesunate, an artemisinin drug, on over 200 patients infected with P. falciparum.
The scientists claimed that while the parasites cleared quickly in most cases, 5.8% cases showed resistance, which they found to be more stable over 2017-2019. Evidently, the team also studied the genotype of the parasites that infected the patients.
They detected seven “kelch13” mutations in 15.8% cases with two prevalent ones labeled C469Y and A675V that are currently classified as candidate markers by the World Health Organization (WHO), reports suggest. Mita and colleagues have apparently gathered evidence that suggests updating A675V’s status to that of a proper molecular resistance marker.
After comparing the African and Asian A675V mutants, the team demonstrated that the two had different origins. These findings implied that artemisinin resistance began independently in Africa and not due to migration, claim reports.
According to reports, the researchers suggested excessive use of injectable artesunate to be a potential reason for the occurrence of resistant mutants. The team further stated that this independent emergence poses a potential risk of cross-border spread across the continent, emphasizing the need to conduct large-scale surveys.