In a first of its kind study, researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the Harvard University School of Public Health proved that a newly identified gene mutation in the parasite’s genome leads to drug resistance to many anti-malarial drugs.
In a paper published on April 21 in PLoS Genetics, the Broad/Harvard team reported on the identification of a new gene region in the P. falciparum parasite known as PF10-0355. Parasites with this mutation produce too many copies of the gene. The gene mutation causes increased resistance to malaria drugs such as halofantrine, mefloquine and lumefantrine. This research provides an explanation for how the genomics of the infecting P. falciparum parasite helps mediate drug resistance in people.
This work represents several years of collaborative research between the Broad Institute, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University, and investigators based in Senegal and Nigeria to find causes of drug resistance at the genetic level.