Washington: Scientists have developed techniques to quickly identify evolution of drug resistance in strains of malaria.
The goal of researchers at Case Western Reserve University is to enable the medical community to react quickly to inevitable resistance and thereby save lives while increasing the lifespan of drugs used against the disease.
Currently, disease monitoring requires months of clinical trials. The new methods can provide more information in just days, and far cheaper.
The investigators have tailored genetic assays and mathematical analysis to uncover and track drug immunity of the deadliest form of the disease, caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum. But, the technology could be used for other forms of malaria and other diseases.
"Each year an estimated 1 million to 2.5 million children die as a direct result of malaria; a conservative estimate is that one child dies of malaria every 30 seconds," said Peter Zimmerman, a professor of international health at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.
"More accurate surveillance of drug resistance in malaria parasite populations will reduce the number of deaths," Zimmerman added.
Earlier detection of resistance enables health care workers to adjust treatments sooner, ideally before resistance becomes fully established in a population and eliminates a drug from use, he explained.
The investigators reported their work in the online journal BioMed Central Genetics.