To address one of the largest risks to the global control of malaria, researchers have developed a mathematical model to predict genetic resistance to antimalarial medications in Africa.
A potentially fatal parasitic disease, malaria is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. Although resistance to the existing antimalarial medications is resulting in unwarranted loss of life, malaria is treatable and cured. In 2020, there will likely be 241 million cases of malaria worldwide, resulting in more than 600,000 fatalities, according to the World Health Organization.
An international research team used data from the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN), a global, scientifically independent collaboration, to map the prevalence of genetic markers that indicate resistance to Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria. The findings were published today in PLOS Computational Biology.
Malaria has severe effects on lower-income nations, and efficient treatment is essential to eradicating it, according to lead author Associate Professor Jennifer Flegg from the University of Melbourne.
“Sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP), an antimalarial medication, is frequently utilised in several preventative malaria treatment programmes in Africa, especially for infants, young children, and pregnant women. However, we are aware that in places with significant SP resistance, its effectiveness as a treatment is in jeopardy “Professor Flegg noted as an associate.
“Health organisations must use the statistical mapping tool we have created to comprehend how antimalarial resistance is spreading. The model incorporates the available data and fills in the gaps by continuously making predictions about place and time.
The tool can help health organisations determine when and where SP should be used as part of preventive malaria treatments and when other antimalarial strategies may need to be investigated.
There is a fast growing need for malaria chemoprevention (drugs that prevent malaria infections), but there are few therapeutic alternatives available, according to Professor Karen Barnes, Head of WWARN Pharmacology and Elimination.
Where SP preventive treatment, either alone or in combination with other antimalarials, would be most likely to have the most impact will be determined by this current evidence on the degree of SP resistance throughout Africa.”
The updated model of SP resistance in Africa, according to Professor Feiko ter Kuile, Head of WWARN’s Malaria in Pregnancy Scientific Group, is long needed.
“It makes sense that the developing resistance to artemisinin-based antimalarials used to treat malaria has received a lot of attention in the resistance mapping. Since many years ago, there has been concern about the malaria parasite’s rising sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistance in Africa. However, there was a shortage of readily available resistance data “says Professor ter Kuile.
“All of the available SP resistance data from the previous two decades are combined into one model in this study. It enables researchers and national malaria control programmes to obtain crucial data on the level of resistance in a certain region during a specific year. This enables us to decide if and when to seek alternate medications for chemoprevention, as well as how sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistance affects the efficacy of these preventive measures.”
The World Health Organization’s lofty goal of eradicating malaria by 2030 will be closer to reality thanks to the research tool, according to Associate Professor Flegg.
Researchers from Johnson C. Smith University, the University of Oxford, the University of Melbourne, the University of Cape Town, and the University of Witwatersrand were also a part of the team.
The Australian Research Council, the Smith Institute for Applied Research, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation all provided money for the study.