Chemotherapy drugs found to inhibit malaria

A class of chemotherapy drugs used to inhibit signaling pathways in cancer cells has recently been found to also kill the parasite that causes malaria.

Researchers from the Global Health Institute and the French government agency for biomedical research, the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale, hope that the discovery could open an entirely new strategy for combating the deadly tropical disease, according to

The research demonstrates that the malaria parasite relies on a signaling pathway to reproduce that is present initially in liver cells and later in red blood cells. The enzymes active in the signaling pathway are not encoded by the parasite, but by the host. They are then taken over by the parasite for its own purposes.

Kinase inhibitors, a new class of molecules developed for use in chemotherapy, target these same signaling pathways. When the researchers treated malaria-infected red blood cells with the kinase inhibitors, the pathways were disabled, rendering the malaria parasite unable to reproduce.

When applied in vitro, the new drug was also able to kill a rodent version of malaria in both liver cells and red blood cells, reports.

Taken together, the research, published online in the journal Cellular Microbiology, suggests that hijacking the cell’s signaling pathway is a universal strategy used by the malaria parasite. Therefore, disabling that pathway would be effective in developing a means of combating the disease strains known to be dangerous to humans.