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HEALTH: "Gene chip technology" deployed in fight against malaria
BANGKOK, 29 August 2012 (IRIN) - Scientists in the USA are looking to
use "gene chip technology" to reduce or contain drug resistance to
malaria, an increasing problem globally but particularly in Southeast
thod-to-combat-malaria-drug-resistance/> from the US University of
Notre Dame's Eck Institute for Global Health
are developing a "gene chip" which could
contribute to identifying drug resistance in blood samples.
The goal is 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," said the lead researcher, Michael Ferdig. "We now have
markers for emerging resistance and new hypotheses that we will use to
track down the resistance mechanism."
Genetic markers or "signposts" are any alteration in the DNA that helps
to identify the presence of a specific disease.
-resistance-in-Mekong> is a natural plant product that represents the
first-line treatment for malaria, after resistance to chloroquine, an
antimalarial previously widely used, forced treatment to change in the
early 1970s. Growing resistance to artemisinin in the greater Mekong
nce-hotspots-identified> sub-region - including Cambodia
-to-some-treatments> , the southern provinces of China, Lao, Myanmar,
Thailand and Viet Nam - means treatment is taking longer to clear
"Southeast Asia, and in particular western Cambodia, is the region
where all resistances in [the parasite] plasmodium falciparum have
emerged," said Francois Nosten, director of the Shoklo Malaria Research
Unit along the Thai-Myanmar border, a region which has reported longer
treatment times in the past eight years for patients taking
artemisinin-based drugs to cure malaria.
However, experts warn that gene chip technology is years away from
"The gene chip is only at the stage of being developed and not there
yet," said Nosten. "Several groups are competing to find the molecular
markers of resistance to artemisinin, but it will take several years
before something is usable in the field and we do not have this time to
According to the World Health Organization
four out 10 people globally who are at risk of becoming infected with
malaria live in Southeast Asia.
Migration from highly endemic malarial areas, counterfeit anti-malarial
drugs, and the misuse of artemisinin have all contributed to worsening
drug resistance, says the agency
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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
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