In order to address one of the most serious threats to global malaria control, researchers developed a mathematical model to forecast genetic resistance to antimalarial drugs in Africa.
Malaria is a potentially fatal parasitic illness spread by infected mosquitos that affects humans. Despite the fact that resistance to current antimalarial drugs is causing avoidable deaths, malaria is preventable and treatable. According to the World Health Organization, there will most likely be 241 million malaria cases worldwide in 2020, with over 600,000 deaths.
An international research team mapped the prevalence of genetic markers that indicate resistance to Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria, using data from the World-Wide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN), a global, scientifically independent collaboration.
The study’s lead author, Associate Professor Jennifer Flegg of the University of Melbourne, asserted that malaria has devastating effects on low-income countries and that effective treatment is essential for the disease’s eradication.
Associate Professor Flegg said, “The antimalarial drug sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) is commonly used in various preventative malaria treatment programs in Africa, particularly for infants, young children and during pregnancy. But we know its efficacy as a treatment is threatened in areas where resistance to SP is high.”
There is a rapidly expanding need for malaria chemoprevention (drugs that prevent malaria infections), according to Professor Karen Barnes, Head of WWARN Pharmacology and Elimination, but there are few available treatment options.
Karen Barnes, professor of pharmacology and elimination at WWARN, said, “This timely evidence of the extent of SP resistance across Africa will help to inform where SP preventive treatment, alone or in combination with other antimalarials, would be most likely to have the greatest impact.”
He said, “This study combines all the available SP resistance data from the last two decades in a single model. It allows national malaria control programmes and researchers to get much-needed data on the degree of resistance in a given area in a given year. This allows us to understand better the impact of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistance on the effectiveness of these preventive interventions and determine if and when to consider alternative drugs for chemoprevention.”
Researchers from Johnson C. Smith University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Oxford, the University of Cape Town, and the University of Witwatersrand were also a part of the team.