The De Novo Selection of Drug-Resistant Malaria Parasites

Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Mar 7;270(1514):545-54. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2002.2241.


Antimalarial drug resistance emerges de novo predominantly in areas of low malaria transmission. Because of the logarithmic distribution of parasite numbers in human malaria infections, inadequately treated high biomass infections are a major source of de novo antimalarial resistance, whereas use of antimalarial prophylaxis provides a low resistance selection risk. Slowly eliminated antimalarials encourage resistance largely by providing a selective filter for resistant parasites acquired from others, and not by selecting resistance de novo. The de novo emergence of resistance can be prevented by use of antimalarial combinations. Artemisinin derivative combinations are particularly effective. Ensuring adequate treatment of the relatively few heavily infected patients would slow the emergence of resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimalarials / pharmacokinetics
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology*
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use
  • Biological Evolution
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Resistance*
  • Malaria / drug therapy*
  • Malaria / parasitology*
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Malaria / transmission
  • Plasmodium falciparum / drug effects*
  • Selection, Genetic


  • Antimalarials