Researchers identify new target for anti-malaria drug

International researchers have identified the first reported inhibitors of a key malaria parasite enzyme that could lead to the basis for developing novel anti-malaria drugs.

The researchers, led by scientists from the University of California - San Diego's School of Medicine, screened approximately 350,000 compounds to identify the ones that inhibit the Plasmodium falciparum glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase enzyme. The PfG6PD is used by the parasite to proliferate and propagate itself, Infection Control Today reports.

"The enzyme G6PD catalyzes an initial step in a process that protects the malaria parasite from oxidative stress in red blood cells, creating an environment in which the parasite survives," Lars Bode, a senior author of the study, said, according to Infection Control Today.

The scientists focused on the parasitic form of the enzyme to avoid side effects that could occur by using the human form of the enzyme.

While testing of a recombinant PfG6PD was previously limited, team members in Germany's Justus-Liebig-University developed the first complete and functional recombinant PfG6PD. Researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in California then used the enzyme to identify a lead compound for a potential inhibitor, ML276.

ML276 was found to cease the growth of malaria parasites in cultured red blood cells, even the ones that developed drug resistance.

"ML276 is a very promising basis for future drug design of new anti-malarial therapeutics," Bode said, according to Infection Control Today.