Epidemiology of drug-resistant malaria

Lancet Infect Dis. 2002 Apr;2(4):209-18. doi: 10.1016/s1473-3099(02)00239-6.


Since the first reports of chloroquine-resistant falciparum malaria in southeast Asia and South America almost half a century ago, drug-resistant malaria has posed a major problem in malaria control. By the late 1980s, resistance to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and to mefloquine was also prevalent on the Thai-Cambodian and Thai-Myanmar (Thai-Burmese) borders, rendering them established multidrug-resistant (MDR) areas. Chloroquine resistance spread across Africa during the 1980s, and severe resistance is especially found in east Africa. As a result, more than ten African countries have switched their first-line drug to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine. Of great concern is the fact that the efficacy of this drug in Africa is progressively deteriorating, especially in foci in east Africa, which are classified as emerging MDR areas. Urgent efforts are needed to lengthen the lifespan of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and to identify effective, affordable, alternative antimalarial regimens. Molecular markers for antimalarial resistance have been identified, including pfcrt polymorphisms associated with chloroquine resistance and dhfr and dhps polymorphisms associated with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistance. Polymorphisms in pfmdr1 may also be associated with resistance to chloroquine, mefloquine, quinine, and artemisinin. Use of such genetic information for the early detection of resistance foci and future monitoring of drug-resistant malaria is a potentially useful epidemiological tool, in conjunction with the conventional in-vivo and in-vitro drug-sensitivity assessments. This review describes the various features of drug resistance in Plasmodium falciparum, including its determinants, current status in diverse geographical areas, molecular markers, and their implications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Animals
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use*
  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple* / genetics
  • Genes, Protozoan / genetics
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans
  • Indonesia
  • Malaria, Falciparum / drug therapy
  • Malaria, Falciparum / epidemiology*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Plasmodium falciparum / drug effects*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • South America / epidemiology


  • Antimalarials
  • Genetic Markers
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • PfCRT protein, Plasmodium falciparum
  • Protozoan Proteins