Artemisinin and its derivatives (ART) are crucial first-line antimalarial drugs that rapidly clear parasitemia, but recrudescences of the infection frequently follow ART monotherapy. For this reason, ART must be used in combination with one or more partner drugs that ensure complete cure.
The spread of artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion of Southeast Asia poses a significant threat for current anti-malarial treatment guidelines globally. The aim of this study was to assess the current prevalence of molecular markers of drug resistance in Plasmodium falciparum in the four provinces with the highest malaria burden in Pakistan, after introducing artemether–lumefantrine as first-line treatment in 2017.
The malaria parasite (Plasmodium sp.) contains a plastid-derived organelle called the apicoplast, which is essential for the growth of the parasite. In this organelle, a redox system comprising plant-type ferredoxin (Fd) and Fd:NADP(H) oxidoreductase (FNR) supplies reducing power for the crucial metabolic pathways. Electron transfer between P. falciparum Fd (PfFd) and FNR (PfFNR) is performed with higher affinity and specificity than those of plant Fd and FNR. We investigated the structural basis for such superior protein-protein interaction by focusing on the Plasumodium-specific regions of PfFd.
Antimalarial drug resistance has historically arisen through convergent de novo mutations in Plasmodium falciparum parasite populations in Southeast Asia and South America. For the past decade in Southeast Asia, artemisinins, the core component of first-line antimalarial therapies, have experienced delayed parasite clearance associated with several pfk13 mutations, primarily C580Y.
Despite a significant decline in morbidity and mortality over the last two decades, in 2018 there were 228 million reported cases of malaria and 405,000 malaria-related deaths. Artemisinin, the cornerstone of artemisinin-based combination therapies, is the most potent drug in the antimalarial armamentarium against falciparum malaria. Heme-mediated activation of artemisinin and its derivatives results in widespread parasite protein alkylation, which is thought to lead to parasite death.
The emergence of artemisinin (ART) resistance in Plasmodium falciparum intra-erythrocytic parasites has led to increasing treatment failure rates with first-line ART-based combination therapies in Southeast Asia. Decreased parasite susceptibility is caused by K13 mutations, which are associated clinically with delayed parasite clearance in patients and in vitro with an enhanced ability of ring-stage parasites to survive brief exposure to the active ART metabolite dihydroartemisinin.
In Tanzania, chloroquine was replaced by sulphadoxine- pyrimethamine (SP) as a first-line for treatment of uncomplicated malaria. Due to high resistance in malaria parasites, SP lasted for only 5 years and by the end of 2006 it was replaced with the current artemisinin combination therapy. We therefore, set a study to determine the current genotypic mutations associated with Plasmodium falciparum resistance to artemisinin, partner drugs and chloroquine.
Mutations in the Plasmodium falciparum Kelch 13 (PfK13) protein are associated with artemisinin resistance. PfK13 is essential for asexual erythrocytic development, but its function is not known. We tagged the PfK13 protein with green fluorescent protein in P. falciparum to study its expression and localization in asexual and sexual stages. We used a new antibody against PfK13 to show that the PfK13 protein is expressed ubiquitously in both asexual erythrocytic stages and gametocytes and is localized in punctate structures, partially overlapping an endoplasmic reticulum marker.
Artemisinin and its derivatives (ARTs) are the frontline drugs against malaria, but resistance is jeopardizing their effectiveness. ART resistance is mediated by mutations in the parasite’s Kelch13 protein, but Kelch13 function and its role in resistance remain unclear. In this study, we identified proteins located at a Kelch13-defined compartment. Inactivation of eight of these proteins, including Kelch13, rendered parasites resistant to ART, revealing a pathway critical for resistance.
The emergence of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum poses a major threat to current frontline artemisinin combination therapies.