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Bioengineering Biotechnology

Researchers "starve" malaria parasite, leading to its death

10 years, 4 months ago

2034  0
Posted on Feb 13, 2009, 9 a.m. By gary clark

A team of researchers from Monash University and the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, have found a way to deactivate the final stage in the digestive mechanisms of malaria parasites, putting its survival mechanism out of commission.

Every 30 seconds, a child somewhere in the world dies of malaria. Researchers are hoping to put malaria out of business - not solely by treating malaria with drugs, but by developing new therapeutic strategies. Professor John Dalton from the University of Technology, Sydney, has joined with Professor James Whisstock and a research team from Monash University, successfully uncovering a way to starve the parasite of nutrients, causing it to die.

"We had an idea as to how malaria could be starved and we have shown this, chemically, can be done," notes Dr. Sheena McGowan, from the Monash University NHMRC program on protease systems biology. "A single bite from an infected mosquito can transfer the malaria parasite into a human's blood stream. The malaria parasite must then break down blood proteins in order to obtain nutrients. Malaria carries out the first stages of digestion inside a specialized compartment called the digestive vacuole - this can be considered to be like a stomach. However, the enzyme we have studied (known as PfA-M1), which is essential for parasite viability, is located outside the digestive vacuole meaning that it is easier to target from a drug perspective."

Currently, 40 percent of the world's population is at risk for contracting malaria. Approximately half a billion people get the disease, and about one million die from it each year. The malaria parasite, Plasmodium, multiplies in the liver and then infects red blood cells. It can quickly become life threatening by stopping vital organs from receiving blood. Drug-resistant malaria has become an increasing problem, although Monash University researchers are developing a new drug that provides a "single dose cure." The research is progressing to its first human studies with support from the Medicines for Malaria Venture, Geneva, Switzerland.

News Release: Breakthrough to treat malaria: scientists deactivate malaria parasite's digestive machinery February 8, 2009

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