In this week's Science, a group of US and European investigators describes the discovery of mutations that give the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum the ability to evade treatment. The researchers performed a genomic analysis of 262 P. falciparum parasites resistant to 37 diverse compounds, uncovering 159 gene amplifications and 148 nonsynonymous changes in 83 genes associated with drug-resistance acquisition. Through further experimentation, the researchers were able to identify a likely resistance gene for all of the compounds, including ones that appear to confer resistance to multiple agents. The findings may help guide the development of new drugs for malaria and improve understanding of how treatments can lose their efficacy. GenomeWeb has more on this study, here.
And in Science Translational Medicine, an international research team reports the identification of variants in a single gene that are associated with an increased risk for both Crohn's disease and Parkinson's disease. In the study, the researchers analyzed the genomes of several cohorts of Ashkenazi Jews — a population at high risk for inflammatory bowel diseases — including 2,066 people with Crohn's disease and 3,633 healthy individuals. They found that certain variants of the gene LRRK2 were associated with increased risk of Crohn's disease, while others appears to be protective. Importantly, some of the mutations are known to be major risk factors for Parkinson's disease. The presence of shared disease-risk alleles in Crohn's disease and Parkinson's disease "provides refined insight into disease mechanisms and may have major implications for the treatment of these two seemingly unrelated diseases," the authors write. GenomeWeb also covers this study, here.