International health insurance policies could eventually be influenced by a new technique detailed in the journal Nature, which outlines the spread of malarial drug resistance and the evolution of organisms that carry the disease.
Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for many of the most severe forms of the condition, with this parasite spread by mosquitoes.
Around 600,000 people die from the condition every year, with more than 200 million people infected worldwide and with sub-Saharan children under the age of five some of the most vulnerable to the international healthcare issue.
It is found in over 100 countries, with these areas generally in tropical climes.
However, researchers have now utilised patient blood samples using infomatics and sequencing technologies to analyse malaria genomes.
Scientists found there were unique differences in the development of the illness in Oceania, Africa and Asia.
They also discovered that a person with a malarial infection frequently could harbour a number of parasites with separate genetics, with the organism creating new forms by swapping DNA.
Geography and human factors therefore have been shown to have a significant impact on the rate of parasite evolution, while countries with elevated malaria transmission levels – specifically Mali and Burkina Faso – had a strong intermingling of Plasmodium falciparum genomes.
Malaria control in Cambodia and Thailand, as well as restricted travel between the two nations, has resulted in the parasites on the border being significantly different to those in Africa and on the Thai – Burmese border.
"This research provides fundamental insights into the population structure and evolution of Plasmodium falciparum that are essential if we are to identify, map, and then contain spreading resistance," Professor Nick White of Oxford University and Thailand's Mahidol University said.
"If we want to control resistance, we first need to be able to monitor the genetic diversity of [Plasmodium] falciparum and identify hotspots of potential resistance as they occur," member of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Oxford University and senior author of the study Professor Dominic Kwiatkowski added.
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