An international research team led by the University of Glasgow has discovered a new drug that could kill the malaria-causing parasite, offering hope for the treatment of the disease.
The drug stops the activity of PfCLK3, an essential protein that controls the production and activity of other proteins required for the parasite’s survival.
According to researchers, this mechanism could help to prevent the spread of malaria.
Caused by the Plasmodium parasite, malaria impacts more than 200 million people and is responsible for around 500,000 deaths each year.
The parasite transmits to humans via a mosquito bite. It grows in the liver and red blood cells of the infected person.
Furthermore, the parasite can change its sex in the blood to re-infect mosquitoes, which causes the disease to spread.
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The newly discovered drug is said to be capable of killing the parasite when it is in the liver or red blood cells. Moreover, the drug can prevent the parasite’s sexual development.
University of Glasgow molecular pharmacology professor Andrew Tobin said: “We are tremendously excited about these new findings and hope they pave the way for the first step in the eradication of malaria.
“Our work has shown that by killing the parasites at the various stages of parasite development, we have not only discovered a potential cure for malaria but also a way of stopping the spread of malaria from person to mosquito, which can then infect other people.”
Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), University of Leicester, the University of California, the University of Oxford, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and The MRC Unit the Gambia contributed to the research.
Funding for the project came from Wellcome, The Medical Research Council (MRC) and Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation.