New class of malaria drugs introduced

Novartis AG has developed a new class of experimental malaria drugs in an effort to advance the search for treatments to replace current medicines as they lose effectiveness against the infectious killer.

According to a study published online by the journal Science, the drugs, called imidazolopiperazines, attack parasites that cause malaria earlier than currently approved therapies. This earlier attack means that the drugs may be useful both for treating malaria and protecting against it, Bloomberg reports.
Researchers are searching for new treatments against malaria amid signs that the disease is becoming resistant to drugs derived from artemisinin, the basis of the most-effective medicines. This resistance is jeopardizing global efforts to curb the infection.
“If we lose the artemisinins, then we’re essentially naked again,” Paul Herrling, the head of corporate research at the Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis, said, according to Bloomberg. "(The new drugs will) probably be active on all resistant strains of malaria that we know, and even on potential resistant strains to artemisinins."
While most current drugs clear the malaria-causing Plasmodium parasites from the blood, the bugs can lie dormant in the liver, causing recurrences months or years later. The research by Stephan Meister and David Plouffe found that one of the new drugs attacks the parasites both in the blood and in the liver when tested in mice.
When the drug was given to healthy mice, it also protected them against malaria by preventing the bugs from multiplying in the liver.

The company plans to start testing the drug in humans early next year, Herrling said. The research was funded by the Medicines for Malaria Venture, the Wellcome Trust and Singapore’s Economic Development Board.
According to the World Health Organization, malaria kills a child in Africa every 45 seconds. The disease infects approximately 225 million people each year and causes more than 780,000 deaths, which makes it the world’s third-deadliest infectious disease behind AIDS and tuberculosis.