Volume 61, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


As resistance to chloroquine spreads in sub-Saharan Africa, pyrimethamine plus sulfadoxine (PSD) is increasingly used as a first-line treatment for falciparum malaria. Populations of Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) resistant to PSD have been selected quickly in other regions. The resistance is strongly correlated with point mutations in dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) and dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS), the two targets of the drug. It is critical to identify drug-resistant Pf-DHFR alleles that are present at a low frequency in these populations since alleles that confer drug resistance will be quickly selected by PSD use. It is difficult to identify these rare alleles by standard molecular techniques. We have designed a yeast expression system that facilitates the identification and rapid analysis of Pf-DHFR alleles that confer PSD resistance, even when they are present at very low frequency in polyclonal patient samples. We analyzed samples from patients in Kilifi, Kenya collected between 1992 and 1995. We determined the prevalence of the drug-sensitive and drug-resistant alleles in patient samples analyzed in parallel by an allele-specific enzyme digestion (ASED) assay. We identified a pyrimethamine-resistant allele (S108N) present at a frequency of < 1% in a sample that was scored as only S108 by ASED. In addition, a novel pyrimethamine-resistant allele (1164M) was isolated twice, once each from two different patient samples. This approach will allow determination of the prevalence of Pf-DHFR alleles that confer pyrimethamine resistance in particular regions, and the rapid identification of novel alleles that confer drug resistance.


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