Decreased Susceptibility to Dihydrofolate Reductase Inhibitors Associated With Genetic Polymorphisms in Ugandan Plasmodium falciparum Isolates

30 Aug 2021

Oriana Kreutzfeld, Patrick K Tumwebaze, Oswald Byaruhanga, Thomas Katairo, Martin Okitwi, Stephen Orena, Stephanie A Rasmussen, Jennifer Legac, Melissa D Conrad, Sam L Nsobya, Ozkan Aydemir, Jeffrey A Bailey, Maelle Duffey, Roland A Cooper, Philip J Rosenthal.

The Journal of Infectious Diseases

Doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiab435

Photo: Dtimiraos_iStock


The Plasmodium falciparum dihydrofolate reductase (PfDHFR) inhibitors pyrimethamine and cycloguanil (the active metabolite of proguanil) have important roles in malaria chemoprevention, but drug resistance challenges their efficacies. A new compound, P218, was designed to overcome resistance, but drug-susceptibility data for P falciparum field isolates are limited.


We studied ex vivo PfDHFR inhibitor susceptibilities of 559 isolates from Tororo and Busia districts, Uganda, from 2016 to 2020, sequenced 383 isolates, and assessed associations between genotypes and drug-susceptibility phenotypes.


Median half-maximal inhibitory concentrations (IC50s) were 42 100 nM for pyrimethamine, 1200 nM for cycloguanil, 13000 nM for proguanil, and 0.6 nM for P218. Among sequenced isolates, 3 PfDHFR mutations, 51I (100%), 59R (93.7%), and 108N (100%), were very common, as previously seen in Uganda, and another mutation, 164L (12.8%), had moderate prevalence. Increasing numbers of mutations were associated with decreasing susceptibility to pyrimethamine, cycloguanil, and P218, but not proguanil, which does not act directly against PfDHFR. Differences in P218 susceptibilities were modest, with median IC50s of 1.4 nM for parasites with mixed genotype at position 164 and 5.7 nM for pure quadruple mutant (51I/59R/108N/164L) parasites.


Resistance-mediating PfDHFR mutations were common in Ugandan isolates, but P218 retained excellent activity against mutant parasites.

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