Antimalarial agent starves malaria parasite

Efforts by researchers have yielded an antimalarial agent that clears infections by starving the malaria parasites that cause the illness to die.

The research, conducted by scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City, could be a stepping-stone to the development of more potent therapies for use against one of world’s leading killers, according to

The novel drug, which was tested on non-human primates, targets Plasmodium falciparum, a malaria species found predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa.

P. falciparum is unable to synthesize purines, a vital building block for the creation of new DNA. Instead, the parasite forms purine indirectly using an enzyme called purine nucleoside phosphorylase to make a purine precursor called hypoxanthine.

The drug, called BCX4945, kills the parasites by depriving them of the purines they need to replicate.

During testing, owl monkeys were infected with a strain of P. falciparum that is known to be lethal. BCX4945 was then administered orally to a portion of the animals twice a day for seven days. Those that were given the drug were cleared of infection between the fourth and seventh day.

The animals remained malaria-free for nine days post-treatment when the virus returned, though it grew at a slower rate, reports.

The study, led by Dr. Vern Schramm, appears in the November issue of the journal PLOS ONE.