Within-host selection of drug resistance in a mouse model of repeated incomplete malaria treatment: Comparison between atovaquone and pyrimethamine

Suci Nuralitha, Josephine E. Siregar, Din Syafruddin, Jessica Roelands, Jan Verhoef, Andy I M Hoepelman, Sangkot Marzuki

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The evolutionary selection of malaria parasites within individual hosts is an important factor in the emergence of drug resistance but is still not well understood. We have examined the selection process for drug resistance in the mouse malaria agent Plasmodium berghei and compared the dynamics of the selection for atovaquone and pyrimethamine. Resistance to these drugs has been shown to be associated with genetic lesions in the dihydrofolate reductase gene in the case of pyrimethamine and in the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene for atovaquone. A mouse malaria model for the selection of drug resistance, based on repeated incomplete treatment (RICT) with a therapeutic dose of antimalarial drugs, was established. The number of treatment cycles for the development of stable resistance to atovaquone (2.47 ± 0.70; n = 19) was found to be significantly lower than for pyrimethamine (5.44 ± 1.46; n = 16; P < 0.0001), even when the parental P. berghei Leiden strain was cloned prior to the resistance selection. Similar results were obtained with P. berghei Edinburgh. Mutational changes underlying the resistance were identified to be S110N in dihydrofolate reductase for pyrimethamine and Y268N, Y268C, Y268S, L271V-K272R, and G280D in cytochrome b for atovaquone. These results are consistent with the rate of mitochondrial DNA mutation being higher than that in the nucleus and suggest that mutation leading to pyrimethamine resistance is not a rare event.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-263
Number of pages6
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology
  • Infectious Diseases

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