LA JOLLA, CA November 17, 2011 - A international team led by scientists from the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) and The Scripps Research Institute has discovered a family of chemical compounds that could lead to a new generation of antimalarial drugs capable of not only alleviating symptoms but also preventing the deadly disease.
In a study published November 17, 2011, in Science Express, the advance online publication of the journal Science, Elizabeth Winzeler, PhD, a Scripps Research associate professor and member of the GNF, and colleagues demonstrated that the class of compounds was more effective against malaria than some commercially available drugs.
Most antimalarial drugs are only effective during the blood stage, and those that do work in the liver have notable side effects. However, the new class of compounds identified by the team is highly effective against the parasite in both the blood and the liver.
"Because the parasite blood stages are more amenable to high-throughput screening, much research has focused on that area," said Stephan Meister, PhD, a research associate in the Winzeler lab and first author of the new paper. "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."
A Complicated Lifecycle
Despite long-standing efforts to control malaria globally, the disease remains endemic in many parts of the world. According to the World Health Organization, malaria affected about 225 million people in 2009, and killed nearly 800,000. The disease, which tends to strike the poorest and most vulnerable populations in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, is caused by Plasmodium parasites transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
The Plasmodium parasite has
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Scripps Research Institute