Genotyping of Plasmodium falciparum pyrimethamine resistance by matrix-assisted laser desorption-ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2004 Feb;48(2):466-72. doi: 10.1128/AAC.48.2.466-472.2004.


Increasing resistance, recrudescences, and treatment failure have led to the replacement of chloroquine with the combination of pyrimethamine (PYR) and sulfadoxine (SDX) as the first-line antimalarial drugs for treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in several areas where this disease is endemic. The development of resistance to PYR-SDX is favored by incomplete treatment courses or by subtherapeutic levels in plasma. PYR-SDX resistance has been associated with several single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the P. falciparum dihydrofolate reductase (pfdhfr) and the P. falciparum dihydropteroate synthetase (pfdhps) genes. We have established assays based on matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) that conveniently allow the identification of SNPs associated with PYR resistance. Variants occurring at codon positions 16, 51, 59, and 108 of the pfdhfr gene were analyzed by MALDI-TOF MS in synthetic oligonucleotides to determine the detection threshold. In addition, 63 blood samples from subjects with P. falciparum parasitemia of various degrees were analyzed. The results were compared to those obtained by DNA sequencing of the respective gene fragment. The results of MALDI-TOF MS and DNA sequencing were consistent in 40 samples. In 23 samples two or three pfdhfr variants were detected by MALDI-TOF assays, whereas DNA-sequencing revealed one variant only. Simultaneous detection of two different mutations by biplex assays was, in principle, feasible. As demonstrated by the example of PYR resistance, MALDI-TOF MS allows for rapid and automated high-throughput assessment of drug sensitivity in P. falciparum malaria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology*
  • DNA / genetics
  • Drug Resistance
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / metabolism
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • Plasmodium falciparum / chemistry
  • Plasmodium falciparum / drug effects
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics*
  • Pyrimethamine / pharmacology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Sulfadoxine / pharmacology
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase / genetics


  • Antimalarials
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • Sulfadoxine
  • DNA
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase
  • Pyrimethamine