Novel phenotypic assays for the detection of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Cambodia: in-vitro and ex-vivo drug-response studies.
Witkowski B., Amaratunga C., Khim N., Sreng S., Chim P., Kim S., Lim P., Mao S., Sopha C., Sam B., Anderson JM., Duong S., Chuor CM., Taylor WRJ., Suon S., Mercereau-Puijalon O., Fairhurst RM., Menard D.
BACKGROUND:Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum lengthens parasite clearance half-life during artemisinin monotherapy or artemisinin-based combination therapy. Absence of in-vitro and ex-vivo correlates of artemisinin resistance hinders study of this phenotype. We aimed to assess whether an in-vitro ring-stage survival assay (RSA) can identify culture-adapted P falciparum isolates from patients with slow-clearing or fast-clearing infections, to investigate the stage-dependent susceptibility of parasites to dihydroartemisinin in the in-vitro RSA, and to assess whether an ex-vivo RSA can identify artemisinin-resistant P falciparum infections. METHODS:We culture-adapted parasites from patients with long and short parasite clearance half-lives from a study done in Pursat, Cambodia, in 2010 (registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00341003) and used novel in-vitro survival assays to explore the stage-dependent susceptibility of slow-clearing and fast-clearing parasites to dihydroartemisinin. In 2012, we implemented the RSA in prospective parasite clearance studies in Pursat, Preah Vihear, and Ratanakiri, Cambodia (NCT01736319), to measure the ex-vivo responses of parasites from patients with malaria. Continuous variables were compared with the Mann-Whitney U test. Correlations were analysed with the Spearman correlation test. FINDINGS:In-vitro survival rates of culture-adapted parasites from 13 slow-clearing and 13 fast-clearing infections differed significantly when assays were done on 0-3 h ring-stage parasites (10·88% vs 0·23%; p=0·007). Ex-vivo survival rates significantly correlated with in-vivo parasite clearance half-lives (n=30, r=0·74, 95% CI 0·50-0·87; p<0·0001). INTERPRETATION:The in-vitro RSA of 0-3 h ring-stage parasites provides a platform for the molecular characterisation of artemisinin resistance. The ex-vivo RSA can be easily implemented where surveillance for artemisinin resistance is needed. FUNDING:Institut Pasteur du Cambodge and the Intramural Research Program, NIAID, NIH.