Scientists have discovered a family of chemical compounds that could help develop a new class of anti-malarial drugs capable of staving off the deadly disease. Malaria caused by Plasmodium parasites transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes, affected about 225 million people in 2009, and killed nearly 800,000 (WHO).
Elizabeth Winzeler, researcher at California’s Scripps Research Institute, demonstrated that the class of compounds was more effective against malaria than commercially available drugs.
Most anti-malarial drugs are only effective during the blood stage, and those that do work have notable side-effects in the liver, the journal Science reported.
However, the new class of compounds identified by the team is highly effective against the malaria parasite in both the blood and the liver, a university statement said. ”Because the parasite blood stages are more amenable to high-throughput screening, much research has been focused on that area,” said Stephan Meister, researcher at Scripp’s Winzeler Lab.
“We’re excited to have found a class of compounds that appears to target a novel gene and is highly active against the liver stage parasites in mice. This compound class provided us with a lead for the development of novel anti-malaria drugs,” he added. Despite long-standing efforts to eradicate malaria, the disease remains endemic in many parts of the world, especially among the vulnerable populations in Asia, Africa and America.