Chemotherapy and chemoprophylaxis are the principal means of combating malaria parasite infections in the human host. In the last 75 years, since the introduction of synthetic antimalarials, only a small number of compounds have been found suitable for clinical usage, and this limited armoury is now greatly compromised by the spread of drug-resistant parasite strains. Our current knowledge of the molecular mechanisms underlying resistance in the lethal species Plasmodium falciparum is reviewed here. © 2002 Éditions scientifiques et médicales Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved.