Novel ”double whammy” drug may treat malaria

Researchers from Portland State University have developed what they call a ‘double whammy’ drug that not only kills malaria parasite but also reverses resistance to other drugs.

The drug called acridone derivative has been developed by Jane Kelly and colleagues, and it contains a chemical, which prevents the malaria parasite getting rid of a toxic by-product of feeding on red blood cells.

By combining the new drug with existing ones such as chloroquine and quinine, it inhibits the genetic defence mechanism thus allowing them to do their job.

When the parasite enters the body it attacks red blood cells and take away the haemoglobin, from which they take amino acids as their food.

The by-product of this process called haem is toxic to the malaria parasites, carried by mosquitoes, however they convert it into the non-toxic form called haemozoin.

The new drug thwarts the conversion process.

“What we wanted was to design a molecule that would be of itself an antimalarial drug, but that would have the power to work together with drugs like chloroquine and quinine, even against parasites that were resistant to those drugs,” The BBC quoted Dr Mike Riscoe from Portland State University as saying.

“We would hope to make existing drugs like chloroquine and quinine useful again, so combining those with this new one could help to combat the rising tide of drug resistance in this neglected disease,” he added.

While the researchers have successfully tested the new compound in mouse models, they need to conduct further experiments to understand its effectiveness before moving on to human studies.

The team says it could be at least 10 years before the drug is available.

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