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A SYBR Green 1-based in vitro test of susceptibility of Ghanaian Plasmodium falciparum clinical isolates to a panel of anti-malarial drugs
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    Background

    Based on report of declining efficacy of chloroquine, Ghana shifted to the use of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) in 2005 as the first-line anti-malarial drug. Since then, there has not been any major evaluation of the efficacy of anti-malarial drugs in Ghana in vitro. The sensitivity of Ghanaian Plasmodium falciparum isolates to anti-malarial drugs was, therefore, assessed and the data compared with that obtained prior to the change in the malaria treatment policy.

    Methods

    A SYBR Green 1 fluorescent-based in vitro drug sensitivity assay was used to assess the susceptibility of clinical isolates of P. falciparum to a panel of 12 anti-malarial drugs in three distinct eco-epidemiological zones in Ghana. The isolates were obtained from children visiting health facilities in sentinel sites located in Hohoe, Navrongo and Cape Coast municipalities. The concentration of anti-malarial drug inhibiting parasite growth by 50% (IC50) for each drug was estimated using the online program, ICEstimator.

    Results

    Pooled results from all the sentinel sites indicated geometric mean IC50 values of 1.60, 3.80, 4.00, 4.56, 5.20, 6.11, 10.12, 28.32, 31.56, 93.60, 107.20, and 8952.50 nM for atovaquone, artesunate, dihydroartemisin, artemether, lumefantrine, amodiaquine, mefloquine, piperaquine, chloroquine, tafenoquine, quinine, and doxycycline, respectively. With reference to the literature threshold value indicative of resistance, the parasites showed resistance to all the test drugs except the artemisinin derivatives, atovaquone and to a lesser extent, lumefantrine. There was nearly a two-fold decrease in the IC50 value determined for chloroquine in this study compared to that determined in 2004 (57.56 nM). This observation is important, since it suggests a significant improvement in the efficacy of chloroquine, probably as a direct consequence of reduced drug pressure after cessation of its use. Compared to that measured prior to the change in treatment policy, significant elevation of artesunate IC50 value was observed. The results also suggest the existence of possible cross-resistance among some of the test drugs.

    Conclusion

    Ghanaian P. falciparum isolates, to some extent, have become susceptible to chloroquine in vitro, however the increasing trend in artesunate IC50 value observed should be of concern. Continuous monitoring of ACT in Ghana is recommended.

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