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Novel drug wipes out deadliest malaria parasite through starvation
Date:12/7/2011

December 7, 2011(BRONX, NY)An antimalarial agent developed by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University proved effective at clearing infections caused by the malaria parasite most lethal to humans by literally starving the parasites to death. The novel research, carried out on a small number of non-human primates, could bolster efforts to develop more potent therapies against one of the world's leading killers. The study, published in the November 11, 2011 issue of PLoS ONE, was led by senior author Vern Schramm, Ph.D., professor and Ruth Merns Chair in Biochemistry at Einstein.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by single-celled parasites belonging to the Plasmodium genus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2008 (the latest year for which figures are available) between 190 million and 311 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and between 708,000 and 1.003 million people died, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa. Plasmodium falciparum, the malaria species most likely to cause severe infections and death, is very common in many countries in Africa south of the Sahara desert.

The Einstein researchers exploited what is arguably P. falciparum's Achilles' heel: it can't synthesize purines, vital building blocks for making DNA. Instead, the parasite must make purines indirectly, by using an enzyme called purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP) to make a purine precursor called hypoxanthine. By inhibiting PNP, the drug BCX4945 kills the parasites by starving them of the purines they need to survive.

After BCX4945 showed potency against laboratory cultures of P. falciparum, owl monkeys were chosen as the non-human prim
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Contact: Kim Newman
sciencenews@einstein.yu.edu
718-430-3101
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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