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J Infect Dis. 2011 Jan 15;203(2):228-36. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiq036.

Evidence that mutant PfCRT facilitates the transmission to mosquitoes of chloroquine-treated Plasmodium gametocytes.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York 10032, USA.


Resistance of the human malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum to the antimalarial drug chloroquine has rapidly spread from several independent origins and is now widely prevalent throughout the majority of malaria-endemic areas. Field studies have suggested that chloroquine-resistant strains might be more infective to mosquito vectors. To test the hypothesis that the primary chloroquine resistance determinant, mutations in PfCRT, facilitates parasite transmission under drug pressure, we have introduced a mutant or wild-type pfcrt allele into the rodent model malarial parasite Plasmodium berghei. Our results show that mutant PfCRT from the chloroquine-resistant 7G8 strain has no effect on asexual blood stage chloroquine susceptibility in vivo or ex vivo but confers a significant selective advantage in competitive mosquito infections in the presence of this drug, by protecting immature gametocytes from its lethal action. Enhanced infectivity to mosquitoes may have been a key factor driving the worldwide spread of mutant pfcrt.

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