Understanding the genetic variation of the malarial parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, is of enormous importance in the continued fight against this public health scourge, but the degree of genetic diversity Plasmodium possesses has been unclear. Two papers in 18 July Nature, show that P. falciparum is a genetically diverse and complex organism with mechanisms to evade both host immunity and other pharmaceutical antimalarial efforts.

John Wootton and colleagues at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland, examined microsatellite markers covering the 14 haploid chromosomes of P. falciparum. They observed that the level of genetic diversity varies substantially among different regions of the parasite genome, revealing extensive linkage disequilibrium surrounding the key chloroquine resistance gene (CQR) pfcrt and at least four CQR founder events (Nature 2002, 418:320-323).

In the second paper, Jianbing Mu and colleagues also at NIH, analyzed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from 204...

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