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article imageUsing cancer-fighting drugs against malaria

By Tim Sandle     Sep 2, 2014 in Science
Scientists have identified a several compounds that may lead to different ways to fight the malaria. Specifically, a university team has identified 31 enzyme-blocking molecules that could halt malaria before symptoms start.
Malaria is a tropical disease caused by a single-celled parasite belonging to genus Plasmodium. The parasite is transmitted by mosquitoes in territories in over 100 countries and presents a risk to about 3.3 billion people. Mosquitoes spread the parasite to humans through their bites; the parasite then travels to the liver, where it matures and reproduces in forms that infect the red cells and cause clinical symptoms.
The majority of research into malaria is orientated towards identifying safe, effective, low-cost drugs that aim to fight malaria at the later stage of the infection (when symptoms are the worst). Taking a different course, researchers have decided that by focusing on treatments that act early into the infection cycle, this will give drug-resistant strains of malaria less time to spread. On this basis, a science team are testing chemical compounds in the laboratory to see if they can identify ones that inhibit malaria during the short window when the parasite is still restricted to the liver, before symptoms start.
For this line of inquiry, the scientists have taken a strain of malaria that primarily infects rodents, and they have tested 1,358 compounds for their ability to keep parasites in the liver in inhibited, both in test tubes and in mice.
By narrowing down the testing, the scientists have narrowed down on a particular group of enzyme-blocking compounds called protein kinase inhibitors. Here they have identified 31 compounds that inhibit malaria growth without harming the host. Several of the compounds are currently in clinical trials to treat cancers including leukemia and myeloma.
Further research is required. However, the scientists are optimistic with the data gathered so far. It also stands that by diversifying the antimalarial arsenal, this could also extend the lifespan of existing anti-malarial drugs.
The research was carried out at Duke University. The research has been reported to the journal ChemBioChem, in a paper titled “Chemical Interrogation of the Malaria Kinome.”
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