Scientists have developed a new drug that shows hope for stopping deadly malaria in its track.
The new drug acts as a roadblock for malaria, curing mice of established infection, according to a study. Treatment was not associated with obvious side effects, suggesting that the drug may also be safe and effective in humans.
In 2011, a group of scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK discovered that a human protein called basigin was required for all strains of Pf to invade red blood cells, an essential stage of the parasite’s life cycle. Antibodies that block the interaction between basigin and the parasite protein PfRH5 were known to block Pf infection in culture, and the Sanger Institute group has now developed a nontoxic anti-basigin drug (called Ab-1) that cured mice of established blood infection.
The transition of promising new drugs from mice to humans usually requires costly and time-consuming clinical trials, but the path for Ab-1 may be less arduous.
Basigin has also been implicated in the progression of certain cancers and in graft-versus-host disease in transplant patients, and drugs that block the protein have already proven safe and effective in patients and are already in clinical use.
According to the World Health Organization malaria currently infects more than 200 million people worldwide and accounts for more than 500,000 deaths per year.
Malaria has been a problem in India for centuries. At present, official figures for malaria in India, available at NVBDCP, indicate 0.7-1.6 million confirmed cases and 400-1,000 deaths annually.
The disease is caused by infection with the parasite Plasmodium falciparum (Pf), and although the disease can be treated with anti-malarial drugs, the drugs are harsh and resistance often develops.
The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.