Parasites & vectors 2017 07 2610(1) 355 doi 10.1186/s13071-017-2298-y
Chloroquine (CQ) was the cornerstone of anti-malarial treatment in Africa for almost 50 years, but has been widely withdrawn due to the emergence and spread of resistance. Recent reports have suggested that CQ-susceptibility may return following the cessation of CQ usage. Here, we monitor CQ sensitivity and determine the prevalence of genetic polymorphisms in the CQ resistance transporter gene (pfcrt) of Plasmodium falciparum isolates recently imported from Africa to China.
Blood samples were collected from falciparum malaria patients returning to China from various countries in Africa. Isolates were tested for their sensitivity to CQ using the SYBR Green I test ex vivo, and for a subset of samples, in vitro following culture adaptation. Mutations at positions 72-76 and codon 220 of the pfcrt gene were analyzed by sequencing and confirmed by PCR-RFLP. Correlations between drug sensitivity and pfcrt polymorphisms were investigated.
Of 32 culture adapted isolates assayed, 17 (53.1%), 6 (18.8%) and 9 (28.1%) were classified as sensitive, moderately resistant, and highly resistant, respectively. In vitro CQ susceptibility was related to point mutations in the pfcrt gene, the results indicating a strong association between pfcrt genotype and drug sensitivity. A total of 292 isolates were typed at the pfcrt locus, and the prevalence of the wild type (CQ sensitive) haplotype CVMNK in isolates from East, South, North, West and Central Africa were 91.4%, 80.0%, 73.3%, 53.3% and 51.7%, respectively. The only mutant haplotype observed was CVIET, and this was almost always linked to an additional mutation at A220S.
Our results suggest that a reduction in drug pressure following withdrawal of CQ as a first-line drug may lead to a resurgence in CQ sensitive parasites. The prevalence of wild-type pfcrt CQ sensitive parasites from East, South and North Africa was higher than from the West and Central areas, but this varied greatly between countries. Further surveillance is required to assess whether the prevalence of CQ resistant parasites will continue to decrease in the absence of widespread CQ usage.