Malaria infects 200 million, and kills nearly 600,000, people across the globe each year, particularly children. There is no vaccine, and the Plasmodium falciparum parasite that causes the disease, has developed resistance to most drugs.
What treatments there are often fail because patients don’t take the full course of medication.
“That also contributes to the development of resistance,” pharmaceutical scientist and senior author Professor Susan Charman of Monash University in Melbourne, told the broadcaster ABC.
The new drug works by inhibiting an enzyme enzyme, called dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH), helps the parasite synthesise the building blocks of DNA and RNA, that is essential to the survival of malaria.
“This molecule has the potential to be effective after only a single dose which would be amazingly important for regions of poverty where compliance is a huge issue,” Charman said.
The new drug also kills both blood stages of the parasite as well as liver stages.
“That is important because it could have use not only for treatment for malaria, but for preventing someone from getting sick in the first place,” Charman said.
The drug and its effects are described in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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