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J Infect Dis. 2002 Oct 1;186(7):999-1006. Epub 2002 Sep 9.

Origin and dissemination of Plasmodium falciparum drug-resistance mutations in South America.

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Malaria Section, Center for Vaccine Development, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21201, USA.


Multidrug resistance is a major obstacle to the control of Plasmodium falciparum malaria, and its origins and modes of dissemination are imperfectly understood. In this study, haplotyping and microsatellite analysis of malaria from 5 regions of the South American Amazon support the conclusion that the parasite mutations conferring mid- and high-level resistance to the antifolate combination sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine have a common origin. Parasites harboring these mutations are also found to share drug-resistance alleles that confer a unique chloroquine resistance phenotype and to be similar at loci not linked to drug resistance, although not genetically identical. Since the 1980s, multidrug-resistant P. falciparum has spread in a north-northwest manner across the continent, from an origin likely in the lower Amazon. This study highlights the importance of continent-wide malaria-control policies and suggests that the containment of resistance to the next generation of therapies may be feasible.

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