Across the globe, doctors and scientists are fighting to make malaria a disease of the past. One of their main weapons is an antimalarial drug called artemisinin. In recent years, the malaria parasite’s resistance to the drug has been growing in Southeast Asia, threatening efforts to eradicate the disease. Now, the key gene associated with artemisinin resistance has been identified. The gene codes for a protein called K13, represented here as multicoloured spirals. Normally, K13 forms in the shape of a propeller and the ‘propeller blades’ are thought to be involved in the interaction with other proteins. Mutations – at the sites shown as orange spheres – alter their formation and have been found to be a major cause of drug resistance. This discovery is a significant step towards preventing the problem of malaria drug resistance that threatens health worldwide.
Written by Hayley Simon
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