Podcast #6 | 26 November 2021: New scientific insights into malaria recurrence in low parasitemia infections is due to relapse rather than infection, determined by DNA sequencing.
The fight against malaria is often described as a game of catch up, as the malaria parasite adapts and evolves to resist drug treatment and, in some cases, even diagnosis. Understanding the parasite on a molecular level, therefore, is becoming increasingly important, and one the ways of doing this is to look at the parasite’s DNA. DNA sequencing is a tool that reveals the order of bases - the chemical building blocks of life - in a particular segment of DNA. When applied to the single cells of P. vivax parasites, new insights were uncovered. Recurrence of symptoms in patients with low parasitemia malaria infections and not treated with primaquine, even after many months, was due to relapse rather than reinfection. The researchers also identified several mutations which could confer drug resistance and escape from natural or vaccine immune responses.