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2013 – New Avenues in Malaria Research Explored

Posted in Drug Studies

Malaria is an infectious disease that affects millions of people throughout the world every year.  Most reported cases come from the Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.  Thousands of people die each year from this disease, and people living in poor countries are at the highest risk.  Parasites from the genus Plasmodium use the biting of mosquitoes to spread from host to host.  Once these unicellular microorganisms enter the circulatory system of their host, they travel through the blood and eventually reach the liver.  In the liver, the Plasmodium parasites are able to reproduce and make their way to the rest of the body.  Typical signs and symptoms of Malaria include headaches and fevers.

Recently, researchers from the National Institutes of Health have found that a certain anti-malarial compound called imidazopyrazines can negate the functions of the protein “PI4K” that stimulates the development and growth of the Plasmodium parasites.  (Imidazopyrazine does not allow the parasite to mature and develop when it reaches the liver of its host.)

Dr. Winzeler, from the University of California, San Diego and Novartis Research Foundation, conducted a study that used imidazopyrazines for the treatment of infected mice with Plasmodium parasites.  They found that imidazopryazine was effective in preventing the malaria-causing parasites to develop and spread their disease.  However, the Winzeler study also found that some of the Plasmodium parasites formed an altered or deformed version of the PI4K protein that made them immune to the imidazopryazine compound.  Hopefully more research will be funded in this area.

As it currently stands, Primaquine is the only drug approved for the treatment of malaria.