NIAID develops rapid malaria drug-resistance test

Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease recently developed two tests to diagnose if the malaria parasite infecting a particular patient will be resistant to the popular malaria treatment drug artemisinin.

The researchers worked hand-in-hand with French and Cambodian researchers in Cambodia to test the efficacy of the tests. Both tests expose malaria parasites to a high dose of artemisinin and measure their survival rate within three days.

The new tests are more cost-effective than current drug-responsiveness tests, which draw a patient's blood every six hours over the course of a few days to see how the parasites respond to different drugs.

The first test the researchers developed draws a patient's blood while a health worker administers an anti-malaria drug containing artemisinin to a patient. The test results come back within 72 hours, letting health workers know if the strain of malaria that patient has is resistant to artemisinin. This test was conducted in Northern and Eastern Cambodia; it was the first time such a study was conducted in Cambodia.

The second test takes the malaria parasite from an infected patient and only tests parasites three hours old or younger. This test is intended to be used in future studies to study the molecular level of resistance to artemisinin.