New study gives hope in fight against drug-resistant malaria

A team of scientists recently discovered a set of molecules that may solve the puzzle of the fight against drug-resistant malaria once and for all.

Christine Hrycyna, Rowena Martin, Jean Chmielewski and colleagues conducted research to determine how compounds designed to fight against Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for the most severe form of malaria, functioned and if they could develop an effective antimalarial compound of their own to model existing ones.

The team created a set of molecules called quinine dimers and tested them on a range of P. falciparum parasites, including those which were drug-resistant. Quinine dimers proved to be effective against both sensitive and drug-resistant parasites.

The quinine dimer compounds bond to the drug-resistant parasites' resistance-conferring protein, which makes it vulnerable to chloroquine. After the parasites regain their sensitivity, the chloroquine inhibits their normal function, eventually causing death.

The research team is hopeful that their discovery can inform the development of new malaria immunizations.

"This highlights the potential for devising new antimalarial therapies that exploit inherent weaknesses in a key resistance mechanism of P. falciparum," the research team said.

Malaria claims the lives of more than 500,000 people each year and is considered one of the most deadly diseases in the world. The illness is mosquito-borne and puts nearly half of the world's population at risk of infection.