Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cheap, single-dose treatment kills malaria

Scimex: International scientists, including Australians, have developed a new drug which kills the parasite that causes malaria, and it should cost as little as a dollar per pill, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives in the developing world. The new treatment works by stopping the parasite from making proteins it needs to survive, and has been shown to work in mice - it's now entering preclinical trials.

A new compound that can kill the parasite that causes malaria is reported in this week's Nature. The compound could lead to a promising antimalarial drug that requires only a single dose and reduces transmission of the disease.

The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum has developed resistance to many current drugs; thus, new therapeutics are needed to overcome this problem. In a search for novel antimalarial agents, Ian Gilbert and colleagues have discovered a compound (DDD107498) that is effective against multiple life-cycle stages of the parasiteDDD107498 works by blocking protein synthesis in P. falciparum, and achieves this effect by inhibiting a gene that encodes PfeEF2, which regulates protein production. Thus, PfeEF2 represents a newly identified drug target in malaria that may aid drug discovery.

DDD107498 is shown to be successful in mouse models of malaria and is now beginning preclinical development. The authors estimate that the drug would cost about US$1 per treatment, which is important because most patients affected by this disease are living in poverty and thus require low-cost treatments. According to the World Health Organization, malaria was responsible for more than 500,000 deaths in 2013, mostly among children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa.