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Drug-resistant, killer mutant Malaria strain enters India

New Delhi: Now this is another deadly bite to worry about, more so because the antimalarial drugs available in India may soon lose their teeth against the vectorborne disease, like in Myanmar and Cambodia.

In the first research report on drugresistant malaria from India, scientists at the National Institute of Malaria Research (NIMR) have traced a mutation in the disease-causing parasite.

"Of the 384 samples we sequenced, non-synonymous mutations in the propeller region were found in four patients from the northeastern states. Though their presence did not correlate with ACT treatment failures, this mutation in the parasite comes as a major threat to India. The mutation has been witnessed in India for the first time. In near future, the resistance to drugs may occur in Indian patients too," NIMR research scientist Dr Vas Dev said.

The Plasmodium falciparum parasite - which causes the most dangerous form of malaria with the highest rates of complications and mortality - is treated with Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT).

The treatment of malaria in southeast Asia is threatened with the emergence of artemisinin-resistant P. falciparum and India is under a constant threat.

"Genome association studies have strongly linked a locus on P. falciparum chromosome 13 to artemisinin resistance, and recent mutations in the kelch-13 propeller region (pfk-13) are strongly linked to resistance. To date, this information was not known in Indian samples," Dr Dev added.

Concerned, the Union Health Ministry is keeping a strict watch on the situation. "Though the mutation has not yet shown any drug resistance in India, it certainly is a major threat. Not only India but the entire world is under threat. Our scientists are carrying out various studies in this regard," said Dr A.C. Dhariwal, National Vector-Borne Disease Control Programme, Directorate General of Health Services, Health Ministry.

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