WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

Anti-malaria compound developed; human trials to begin

A new compound, (+)-SJ733, destroys malaria-infected cells without harming healthy ones using the body's own defenses. | Contributed photo

A team of international scientists led by researchers from St. Jude Children’s Hospital recently discovered a compound that destroys malaria-infected red blood cells without harming healthy cells.

The compound, (+)-SJ733, uses the body’s own immune system to break down the red blood cells infected with malaria.

The new compound manipulates the activity of ATP4 protein, which is essential to the survival of malaria parasites. These manipulations trigger an antibody response that tells the body that the malaria-infected red blood cells (which change in shape, size, texture and aging process) need to be destroyed.

The researchers used a mouse model to determine that a single dose of the compound eradicates 80 percent of the malaria parasites in just 24 hours. They found that all of the parasites were eradicated within 48 hours of the dosage.

The researchers plan to start safety trials on healthy adult subjects.

The (+)-SJ733 compound was created using a molecule from another study for an anti-malarial drug solution. Malaria has been shown to be uniquely resistant to drug treatment, but the compound has proven to eradicate even drug-resistant strains of malaria.

"Our goal is to develop an affordable, fast-acting combination therapy that cures malaria with a single dose," R. Kiplin Guy,  corresponding author of the study and chairman of the St. Jude Department of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics, said. "These results indicate that SJ733 and other compounds that act in a similar fashion are highly attractive additions to the global malaria-eradication campaign, which would mean so much for the world's children, who are central to the mission of St. Jude."

Malaria is spread through a parasite. Humans contract it when they are bitten by a mosquito carrying the malaria parasite.

Malaria is one of the largest global health threats. Children are especially vulnerable to the virus. Statistics from the World Health Organization said a child in Africa dies every minute from malaria.

Details about the study have been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, at http://intl.pnas.org.

Future efforts to test the compound on healthy adults will include researchers from St. Jude, a Japanese pharmaceutical company called Eisai Co and the nonprofit Medicines for Malaria Venture, based in Switzerland.

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