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New method of killing malaria parasite

Wednesday November 30th, 2011

British scientists have discovered a novel way of killing the parasite that causes malaria in humans.

The parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, needs specific enzymes in order to survive in the blood stream, say Professor Andrew Tobin of Leicester University, UK, and colleagues. This breakthrough could pave the way for new anti-malaria drugs, they believe.

Malaria currently infects more than 225 million people worldwide, causing nearly 800,000 deaths per year, according to the World Health Organisation. The majority of the deaths occur among African children. Plasmodium falciparum is injected into the victim through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito.

The discovery was published yesterday in the journal Nature Communications.

Professor Tobin said: "We have shown that a crucial element that is required by malaria parasites to survive in the human blood stream is a group of enzymes called protein kinases.

"If we stop these proteins kinases from working then we kill the malaria parasites. We are now looking for drugs that do exactly that - stop the protein kinases from working. If we find these drugs then we will have a new way of killing the malaria parasite.

"It seems perfectly realistic to us that we can now develop novel anti-malaria drugs based on the findings that we have made - it certainly is a big moment in our fight against this terrible disease that mainly affects the world's poorest people."

He added that, to avoid widespread resistance to anti-malarial treatments, there needs to be an ongoing stream of new anti-malaria drugs. "Our discovery provides one avenue towards populating such a pipeline," he concludes.

Global kinomic and phospho-proteomic analyses of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Solyakov, L. et al. Nature Communications November 29, 2011 DOI:10.1038/ncomms1558

Tags: Africa | UK News | World Health

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