Rapid Detection of Pyrimethamine Susceptibility of Plasmodium falciparum by Restriction Endonuclease Digestion of the Dihydrofolate Reductase Gene

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  • Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, Division of Microbiology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Biomedical Center, Uppsala University, Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology, Uppsala, Sweden

A rapid and simple method to detect pyrimethamine susceptibility of Plasmodium falciparum by analyzing DNA from whole blood is presented. Samples from cultured isolates and from patients infected with P. falciparum were spotted onto filter paper disks, dried, and stored for subsequent analyses. After extracting the P. falciparum DNA using Chelex-100 ion-chelating resin (Bio-Rad, Richmond, CA), the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to amplify the dihydrofolate reductase (dhfr) gene. The PCR product of 727 basepairs was digested with the Alu I restriction endonuclease to detect whether the isolates were sensitive or resistant to the antimalarial drugs pyrimethamine and cycloguanil. This restriction endonuclease digests only DNA from pyrimethamine-sensitive parasites because the recognition locus of Alu I is changed by mutations giving rise to pyrimethamine and cycloguanil resistance. This method is simple and sensitive and could therefore be used to study the epidemiology of pyrimethamine resistance in P. falciparum. The DHFR gene of pyrimethamine-resistant clones from Vietnamese patients showed three amino acid changes that were previously found in pyrimethamine-resistant isolates. Two other clones, T9/94 and T9/96, originally isolated from a single malaria patient from Thailand, had different DHFR gene sequences. The nucleotide sequence of the DHFR gene from T9/96 was identical to the wild-type DHFR sequence, whereas T9/94 possessed amino acid substitutions at positions 16 and 108 that have been described in cycloguanil-resistant parasites.