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Malaria cure at last on the horizon

By Dave Armstrong - 02 Jul 2014 6:13:0 GMT
Malaria cure at last on the horizon

This new inhibitor of the Plasmodium parasite can be explained as a parallel to the methods used to combat malaria many years ago. The spreading of oil on ponds prevented these mosquito larvae from attaching their breathing tubes to the surface. This inhibited their aerobic respiration, but also caused problems for fish and vegetation, despite having limited success at controlling mosquito numbers; Mosquito image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Malaria is creepy. The parasite Plasmodium has developed resistance to the chloroquine and other drugs used to help sufferers , while the life cycle inside the human liver makes it otherwise irremovable. The surprise source of a final solution is in Melbourne.

The gatekeeper of a host of Plasmodium actions within our red blood cells is an enzyme called Plasmepsin V. This single compound runs the whole game of transporting hundreds of essential proteins into and out of the parasite cell and causes the cell to be immune to human defence systems.WEHI-916 has been designed in the lab as a very potent kind of mimicking inhibitor. In vitro experiments proved that the Plasmodium trophozoite cells were killed completely when the inhibitor was acting. Development of the drug will need enhancement of its ability to diffuse across cell membranes and probably involve modification of the WEHI-916 molecule to find even more successful in vivo inhibition.

The point here is that this is the first drug to offer hope to current sufferers and all of us living in a warming world in which the mosquito hosts are spreading into new environments every year. This is the biggest killer disease ever known. 650,000 people die every year and several hundred million infections are achieved by the mosquito carriers.

The 2 single-celled malarial parasites have mutated to combat our anti-malarial drugs. They have as their currently-secure niche our own red blood cells and in many cases our livers. This paper from Dr Brad Sleebs, Dr Justin Boddey, Mr Sash Lopaticki, Mr Matthew O'Neill, Professor Alan Cowman and colleagues from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Victoria, The University of Melbourne,La Trobe University (all Australia) and the Thai National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, plus the University of Copenhagen attacks their position as the number one killer disease in - PLoS Biology.