Open Access Research article

In vitro antimalarial susceptibility and molecular markers of drug resistance in Franceville, Gabon

Rafika Zatra1, Jean Bernard Lekana-douki12*, Faustin Lekoulou1, Ulrick Bisvigou13, Edgard Brice Ngoungou2 and Fousseyni S Toure Ndouo1

Author affiliations

1 Unité de Parasitologie Médicale (UPARAM), Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (CIRMF), B.P., 769, Franceville, Gabon

2 Département de Parasitologie-Mycologie Médecine Tropicale, Faculté de Médecine, Université des Sciences de la Santé, B.P., 4009, Libreville, Gabon

3 Département de Santé Publique et de Médecine Légale et du Travail, Faculté de Médecine, Université des Sciences de la Santé, B.P., 4009, Libreville, Gabon

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Citation and License

BMC Infectious Diseases 2012, 12:307  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-307

Published: 15 November 2012



Malaria remains a major public health problem, due largely to emergence and widespread P. falciparum drug resistance. WHO recommends artemisinine combination based therapy (ACT) to overcome P. falciparum drug resistance, but reports of declining ACT efficacy have been published. A thorough understanding of the molecular bases of P. falciparum resistance to existing drugs is therefore needed. The aims of this study were to analyze the in vitro sensitivity of P. falciparum field isolates from Franceville, Gabon, to chloroquine (CQ), mefloquine (MF), dihydroartemisinine (DHA) and monodesethylamodiaquine (MDAQ), and to investigate polymorphisms associated with drug resistance.


We conducted a cross-sectional study of 53 field isolates. Field isolates sensitivity to CQ, MF, DHA and MDAQ was assessed using the colorimetric DELI test. The Pfmdr1 codons 86 and 1246, Pfcrt (haplotype codon 72 to 76) and the PfATPAse6 codons 110 and 2694 were analysed by PCR-RFLP. Associations between drug sensitivity and parasite gene polymorphisms were evaluated with the Chi square test, and routine hematological parameters were analyzed with Fisher’s exact test implemented with Epinfo software. In all statistical tests, significance was assumed at p<0.05.


A total of 46 P. falciparum isolates were successfully cultured in vitro and their sensitivity was tested. The proportions of isolates resistant to CQ, MF and MDAQ were 43.5%, 23.4% and 56.5%, respectively. Some isolates (23.9%) had DHA IC50 values higher than 10 nM. The median IC50 values were 71.67 (interquartile range (IQR, 1–438.2), 6.59 (IQR, 0.08-96), 64.79 (IQR, 0.09-448) and 6.45 nM (IQR, 0.09-23) for CQ, MF, MDAQ and DHA, respectively. The strongest correlation between diminished DHA sensitivity and MF resistance was observed (r2=0.73), followed by correlation between diminished DHA sensitivity and CQ resistance. Cross-resistance between CQ and MF was also observed. The prevalence of the 86Y and 1246Y mutations in Pfmdr1, 76T in Pfcrt, and 110A and 2694T in PfATPase6 was respectively 42% and 17.1%, 97.8%, and 0% and 22.2%.


These high levels of antimalarial drug resistance in Franceville, Gabon, call for reinforced surveillance of drug efficacy.