malaria infographic
malaria infographic

Infographic: Fighting Malaria Drug Resistance

The parasite that causes malaria has evolved to evade many of the drugs that researchers have developed to fight the tropical disease.

Natalie Slivinski
Mar 1, 2019

Plasmodium falciparum resistance to artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) started to crop up around 2007. Infections, especially in the Greater Mekong area of Southeast Asia, seemingly survived treatment. This was largely due to the pairing of artemisinin derivatives with older drugs that had existing resistance problems. But some experts think the emergence of partial resistance to artemisinin itself—which allows parasites to persist for longer in the body following treatment—could also play a role.

THE SCIENTIST STAFF

ACT of Resistance

Plasmodium falciparum resistance to artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) started to crop up around 2007. This largely arose from pairing artemisinin derivatives with older drugs that had existing resistance problems. But the emergence of partial resistance to artemisinin itself—which allows parasites to persist for longer in the body following treatment—may also play a role.

Partial artemisinin resistance

Researchers have linked partial resistance to artemisinin-derived drugs with several mutations in the kelch13 gene,...

Data taken from Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 59:3156–67, 2015. Times are approximate.
© Tami tolpa

Partner drug resistance

During the blood stages of malaria infection, the parasite resides within red blood cells, digesting hemoglobin to support its growth and maturation.

In red blood cells, P. falciparum digests human hemoglobin to feed itself. In addition to amino acids, this releases toxic heme. Normally, the parasite polymer­izes the heme into harmless clumps of hemozoin or degrades it through a handful of poorly understood pathways. But most ACT partner drugs inhibit detoxification. Some partner drugs also attack the parasite through other mechanisms. Here are examples of how P. falciparum strains resist these drugs.

© Tami tolpa

Read the full story

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?