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Last updated at 15:41 BST, Monday, 29 April 2013

Drug-resistant malaria

Summary

29 April 2013

A new kind of malaria has appeared which is not affected by the main drug against the disease.

Reporter:

Rebecca Morelle

A man sleeps under a mosquito net in Cambodia

Mosquito nets help protect against bites

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Report

Artemisinin is a frontline drug in the fight against malaria. It's used around the world, and can clear the infection in just a few days.

But reports of resistance began to emerge in western Cambodia in 2008, and this has now spread to other areas in South East Asia.

To investigate, scientists sequenced the genomes of more than 800 malaria-causing parasites collected from all around the world.

They found that some of the strains present in Cambodia were significantly different to the rest, and these were able to withstand artemisinin treatment.

The researchers don't yet know how the parasites are beating the drugs.

But they say understanding their genetic fingerprint will help them to quickly detect and track these strains if they spread.

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Vocabulary

frontline

leading, most important

resistance

the ability not to be affected or harmed by something, especially a drug

emerge

appear, become known

sequenced the genomes

determined the order of genetic material (DNA)

parasites

plants or animals that live in or on other plants or animals and feed on them

strains

types

withstand

to be strong enough not to be harmed or destroyed by something; resist

genetic fingerprint

the unique pattern of a plant or animal's genes

detect

to discover something (often using special equipment)

track

follow the movement or development of something