A promising new drug against malaria

21 March 2013

BPRC - 1. A promising new drug against malaria

To date, there are only a handful of drugs available against malaria. Moreover, resistance to these drugs is rapidly emerging and new drugs are therefore urgently needed. Recent research has identified a promising new class of anti-malarial compounds.

The malaria parasite is a complex organism with a wide variety of developmental stages. The parasite develops in the mosquito, then in the liver of an infected person and eventually multiplication takes place in the bloodstream. This multiplication in the blood causes disease. Specific stages in the blood of an infected person can also be taken up by a mosquito in which reproduction of the parasite can take place.

Currently, most anti-malarial drugs are directed against a limited number of developmental forms of the parasite. Usually they are directed against the blood stages to combat disease. A worldwide consortium of malaria research groups, including researchers from the BPRC, have now discovered a new class of antimalarial compounds.

In culture flasks and in rodents these compounds are not only highly active against the malaria parasite forms that are present in the blood, but also against the stages that are present in the liver and against the stages that can survive in the mosquito. Thus, these drugs are not only active against disease, but also prevent transmission of the parasite through the mosquito. More research is needed to test whether this is also the case in humans.

The identification of this new class of promising anti-malarial drugs is reported in the leading journal Science Translational Medicine.