Malarial drug resistance and congenital complications – the week in infectious diseases

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Malaria

Recent studies have demonstrated the travel of drug-resistant malarial strains to the likes of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. However, this week results were reported from the DNA analysis of approximately 1,500 Plasmodium falciparum parasites from Southeast Asia, uncovering that the malaria parasite has been developing multi-drug resistance to first-line treatments extremely rapidly. Specifically, one drug-resistant strain was discovered to have spread for 5 years prior to clinical resistance being reported.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

Following last week’s focus on what industry can do to tackle AMR – including a new industry benchmark and a report from DRIVE-AB – this week saw the first surveillance from the WHO on antibiotic resistance, revealing high levels of resistance to a number of serious bacterial infections in both low- and high-income countries.

Carmem Pessoa-Silva, who coordinates the new surveillance system at WHO, commented: “The report is a vital first step towards improving our understanding of the extent of antimicrobial resistance. Surveillance is in its infancy, but it is vital to develop it if we are to anticipate and tackle one of the biggest threats to global public health.”

Zika

In a study published this week, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM; MO, USA) have identified that viruses closely related to the Zika virus – including West Nile and Powassan – are able to spread from infected pregnant mice to their fetuses, causing brain damage and fetal death.

“Millions of people of people were infected with Zika in a short time, and I think that made it easier to see, in people, that Zika virus could infect and cross the placenta and cause fetal damage,” explained Jonathan Miner (WUSM), the senior author of the study. “But our data show that other flaviviruses have the same capacity, at least in mice. It may be that it’s just more difficult to prove a link between West Nile and birth defects because the number of cases is smaller and infections are more sporadic.”

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