Sequencing of the genomes of a large collection of Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria, is reported in Nature Genetics. This provides insights into the evolution of parasite resistance to artemisinin, a standard first line drug for malaria treatment, and the recent epidemic in South-East Asia.
Dominic Kwiatkowski and colleagues sequenced the whole genomes of P. falciparum isolated from 825 recent malaria cases collected from 10 locations in West Africa and South-East Asia. They characterize patterns of genetic variation and drug resistance in these parasite genomes, and were able to identify three distinct subpopulations in western Cambodia that are artemisinin resistant. They identify genetic markers that differentiate these artemisinin resistant strains from other strains, which may be useful in tracking the spread and evolution of resistance.