Genes that enable malaria-carrying mosquitoes resistant to insectides have been identified by scientists.
Scottish researchers have found a gene that enables the parasite that causes the infection to resist treatment with the plant-based remedy artemisinin.
They hope the breakthrough could boost efforts to prevent the disease.
In many countries where the parasite has developed resistance to previously effective common treatments such as chloroquine, artemisinin remains the only effective treatment against the infection.
However, malarial resistance to artemisinin appears to be developing, potentially creating problems in controlling malaria.
The study, by scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the New University of Lisbon, used emerging technology to scan the genetic fingerprint of drug resistant parasites that infect rodents.
"This knowledge from rodent malaria parasites opens up new directions that will allow this gene to be investigated in human malaria," the Scotsman quoted Paul Hunt of the University of Edinburgh as saying.
"This may help track the evolution of drug resistance and may eventually enable the design of alternative, effective drugs," he added.
The technology used by the scientists allows rapid identification of genes that enable the parasite to withstand existing drug treatments.
The study was published in BMC Genomics.