Short report: high prevalence and imbalanced age distribution of the Plasmodium falciparum dihydrofolate reductase gene Asn108 mutation in an area of low pyrimethamine usage in Nigeria.

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  • 1 Institute for Tropical Medicine, Medical Faculty Charité, Humboldt-University Berlin, Germany.
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Resistance of Plasmodium falciparum to pyrimethamine is associated with a non-silent point mutation of the parasite dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) gene (Ser108 --> Asn108). Wide-scale use of antimalarials is thought to contribute to the emergence of drug resistance. In 131 P. falciparum-infected children in rural Nigeria, the frequency of the resistant Asn108 genotype was assessed by enzymatic restriction digestion of polymerase chain reaction-amplified DHFR sequences and compared with residual pyrimethamine blood levels. The prevalence of the Asn108 variant was 41.2%. In 18.3% of the isolates, both the Asn108 and the wild-type alleles were present. In contrast to the high prevalence of resistant genotypes, residual pyrimethamine blood levels were detected in only 4%. Furthermore, age was found to be a determinant of the parasite genotype since the proportion of Asn108 variants decreased with age (P < 0.05). These findings indicate that additional, unidentified factors, rather than selection by residual drug levels alone, might be responsible for the emergence of pyrimethamine-resistant parasite genotypes.