Anti-inflammatory agents boost malaria survival rates

Robert Hancock, a UBC microbiologist, has developed anti-inflammatory agents that, when used in combination with anti-malarial drugs, boost survival rates of severe malaria by as much as 50 percent.

Hancock and his colleagues developed innate defense regulator peptides as part of an $8.7 million Grand Challenges in Global Health Grant. The peptides are able to prevent inflammation in the brains of mice with malaria and improved their survival, according to UBC Science.

IDR peptides were shown by scientists from the Walter and Eliza Hill Institute in Australia in the May 24 edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

"IDR peptides enhance beneficial aspects of the initial immune response, while dampening harmful inflammation," WEHI's Louis Schofield said, according to UBC Science. "IDR peptides are also relatively cheap to produce and easy to use, making them a good option for medical treatments in developing countries.

Hancock, who's peptides have since been licensed for animal health and approved by Cystic Fibrosis Canada for pre-clinical development as an anti-inflammatory for CF lung infections, said that the findings about improved malaria survival rates support an approach to treating infections. This approach, called host-directed therapy, targets the host and not the parasite.

"One of the major challenges we have in treating infections with antibiotics is that the microbes can evolve and become resistant to the treatment," Hancock said, UBC Science reports.