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Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2005 Jan;99(1):62-70.

In vitro recrudescence of Plasmodium falciparum parasites suppressed to dormant state by atovaquone alone and in combination with proguanil.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Infectious Diseases Unit, Malaria Research Laboratory, M9/02, Karolinska University Hospital, Karolinska Institute, SE 171-76 Stockholm, Sweden.


We studied the viability of Plasmodium falciparum parasites reappearing in long-term cultures after repetitive exposure to atovaquone and proguanil. Parasites (F32 and FCR3) exposed to 100-5000 nM atovaquone for 96 hours were reduced to <5% of initial parasitaemia but recrudesced after 9-15 days. Also, parasites exposed to 1000 nM atovaquone for 48, 72, 96 and 144 hours recrudesced after 9, 14, 21 and 23 days respectively. Immediately after removal of the drug, only 1-3 schizonts per 10000 red blood cells were found consistently, apparently unable to produce trophozoites and thus, possibly, adopting a "dormant state". Parasites (F32 and FCR3) exposed to 500 nM atovaquone for 72 hours reappeared after 14 days. These recrudescing parasites were then re-exposed and suppressed by atovaquone in three consecutive follow-up experiments. They reappeared after 12, 11 and 9 days respectively. No known point mutations in cytochrome b gene (cytb), associated with atovaquone resistance, were detected in any recrudescing parasites. Finally, parasites (F32) exposed to various concentrations of atovaquone and proguanil in combination for 72 hours reappeared after 9-17 days. The baseline susceptibilities of the parasites to individual drugs were similar before and after recrudescence in all experiments.

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