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PLoS One. 2014 Aug 21;9(8):e105690. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105690. eCollection 2014.

Polymorphisms in K13 and falcipain-2 associated with artemisinin resistance are not prevalent in Plasmodium falciparum isolated from Ugandan children.

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Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America.
Infectious Diseases Research Collaboration, Kampala, Uganda.
Department of Medicine, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda.


The emergence of resistance to artemisinin derivatives in Southeast Asia, manifested as delayed clearance of Plasmodium falciparum following treatment with artemisinins, is a major concern. Recently, the artemisinin resistance phenotype was attributed to mutations in portions of a P. falciparum gene (PF3D7_1343700) encoding kelch (K13) propeller domains, providing a molecular marker to monitor the spread of resistance. The P. falciparum cysteine protease falcipain-2 (FP2; PF3D7_1115700) has been shown to contribute to artemisinin action, as hemoglobin degradation is required for potent drug activity, and a stop mutation in the FP2 gene was identified in parasites selected for artemisinin resistance. Although delayed parasite clearance after artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) has not yet been noted in Uganda and ACTs remain highly efficacious, characterizing the diversity of these genes is important to assess the potential for resistance selection and to provide a baseline for future surveillance. We therefore sequenced the K13-propeller domain and FP2 gene in P. falciparum isolates from children previously treated with ACT in Uganda, including samples from 2006-7 (n = 49) and from 2010-12 (n = 175). Using 3D7 as the reference genome, we identified 5 non-synonymous polymorphisms in the K13-propeller domain (133 isolates) and 35 in FP2 (160 isolates); these did not include the polymorphisms recently associated with resistance after in vitro selection or identified in isolates from Asia. The prevalence of K13-propeller and FP2 polymorphisms did not increase over time, and was not associated with either time since prior receipt of an ACT or the persistence of parasites ≥2 days following treatment with an ACT. Thus, the K13-propeller and FP2 polymorphisms associated with artemisinin resistance are not prevalent in Uganda, and we did not see evidence for selection of polymorphisms in these genes.

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