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Stressed-out parasites: Overcoming drug-resistant malaria
Drug resistance to the critical antimalarial therapeutics of the artemisinin family has emerged in Southeast Asia, highlighting the need to understand how these drugs work and how they can be used more effectively. Research now shows that artemisinins may function by chemically damaging the malaria parasite's proteins, causing them to activate a cellular stress response. Parasites resistant to artemisinins have developed a more vigorous stress response, making them impervious to the normal drug treatments. However, it appears that with prolonged artemisinin treatment, even this improved stress response can be overwhelmed, leading to parasite clearance. This work suggests that extending artemisinin treatment or co-administering drugs that target the stress response can overcome drug resistance.