MDR1-associated resistance to artesunate+mefloquine does not impair blood-stage parasite fitness in a rodent malaria model

Louise Rodrigues, Gisela Henriques, Pedro Cravo

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2 Citations (Scopus)


If drug-resistant malaria mutants are less fit than sensitive forms, they will wane over time when active drug pressure is removed and the overall sensitivity to the drug may be restored. However, most studies addressing this issue have been largely retrospective. Here, we undertook a predictive study, using mutant rodent malaria parasites resistant to the Artemisinin combination treatment (ACT) version of artesunate+mefloquine (ATN+MF) to gain insights about their ability to compete with ATN+MF-sensitive forms in untreated hosts. Previously, Plasmodium chabaudi parasites resistant to ATN+MF were selected in vivo through prolonged passaging in mice under increasing doses of the two drugs, and shown to harbour duplication of the mdr1 gene. Here, the resistant parasite, AS-ATNMF1, was mixed with its progenitor AS-ATN in different proportions and each mixture was injected into mice that were left untreated. Absolute percentage parasitaemias and the proportion of each parasite were then monitored by microscopy and proportional sequencing, respectively, every two days for a period of 14days. AS-ATNMF1 outperformed its progenitor AS-ATN over the whole sampling period regardless of the relative starting proportion of each parasite clone. In order to assess if consecutive sub-inoculations could have been responsible for the apparent fitness gain of the resistant parasite, its growth was compared to that of AS-ATN27P, a parasite which was passaged the same number of times as AS-ATNMF1, but left untreated. Although small fluctuations in the proportion of each parasite were observed through time, the relative abundance of each on the last day of sampling (Day 14) was virtually identical to that of the starting inoculum. We conclude that there is no fitness cost associated with MDR1-associated ATN+MF resistance in vivo. These observations offer the first insights about the within-host dynamics between ACT-resistant and -sensitive parasites in absence of drug pressure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)340-346
Number of pages7
Journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • Animals
  • Antimalarials
  • Artemisinins
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Resistance
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins
  • Parasitemia
  • Plasmodium chabaudi
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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