Researchers find direct method for analyzing malaria parasite DNA

Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Oxford University have discovered a new method for the analysis of malaria parasite DNA.

The novel technique enables researchers to extract DNA of malaria parasites directly from the blood samples of patients, skipping the need to grow the parasite in the laboratory prior to sequencing. The researchers discovered genetic differences between malaria parasites in Asia, Oceania and Africa, which could allow parasites to be tracked more effectively by scientist, Cherwell reports.

"Rapid sequencing of parasite genomes from the blood of infected people is a powerful way of detecting changes in the parasite population, and potentially an important new surveillance tool for controlling malaria," Dominic Kwiatkowski, the director of the Center for Genomics and Global Health, said, according to Cherwell.

Using the new DNA analysis, researchers may be able to ascertain where malaria parasites are evolving more rapidly and determine resistance to malaria drugs more efficiently than before.

"Working as a global community, we can now build on this technique to identify hotspots of antimalarial drug resistance around the world and contain them effectively," Nick White, a professor with Oxford University and Mahidol University in Thailand, said, according to Cherwell.

More than 200 million people are infected with malaria annually, killing approximately 650,000 people. Most deaths occur in children under five years of age in Sub-Saharan Africa.