Thursday, December 8, 2011

Treating malaria by starving the parasite causing it

A new medicine in development to treat malaria focuses on killing the parasite that causes the disease by starving it. By blocking the production of a molecule that the mosquito needs to build new DNA, it can't make new cells, causing it to die. By starving it of the required building blocks for DNA, the scientists claim they have found the Achilles' heal, which aids in eradicating the bug causing malaria.

Building blocks
To make DNA, the micro-organism needs purines. To create purines, it needs another molecule, and the production of this particular molecule is inhibited by the researchers. Organisms constantly need to create new cells to replace old ones, and each cell needs a new set of freshly produced DNA, copied from the parent cells. While the parasites are not starved in the usual sense of the word, they no longer receive the right nutrients to sustain themselves.

The purine-inhibiting drug, codenamed BCX4945, was given to a couple of primates that were infected with an otherwise lethal dose of the parasite causing malaria. The scientists found that the treatment helped the monkeys to survive. After the treatment ended, the infection seemed to return. However, the levels of parasitic activity in the body remained lower than during an untreated infection.

There are more studies being performed on treating malaria, which is the world's most common parasitic disease, and kills about 800.000 people worldwide each year. A vaccination programme that already started has been shown to half the incidence of severe malaria. Additionally, scientists modified the mosquito that carries the malaria-causing bug, which causes their offspring to die before reaching maturity, and thus preventing procreation.

As stated, there are many new therapies underway to treat malaria, and they all approach the disease from different angles. That is a good thing, because deploying different strategies increases the chance of success, and it is possible that different treatments work in a synergistic way.


  1. Very informative article. Thanks for the sharing here!!!

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