Antibodies targeting host proteins efficient against malaria, study says
All of the drugs that are used to treat malaria target the parasite that causes the disease, Plasmodium falciparum. The parasite relies on a specific protein inside the host in order to attack human red blood cells. Treatments that target the protein could block the parasite from spreading throughout the body.
In the study, these treatments eliminated an established malaria infection in less than three days in the mice subjects.
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Post-doctoral Fellow Zenon Zenonos was the first author of the study.
"This counter-intuitive approach to malaria treatment leaves the parasite powerless," Zenonos said. "If the parasite can't bind to the surface of our red blood cells and invade, it can't reach the next stage in its lifecycle, so it dies. There's nothing the parasite can do to get round it, as the interaction is absolutely essential for infection to occur."
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Researcher Gavin Wright was corresponding author of the study.
"When we discovered the PfRH5-basigin interaction in 2011, we knew we had found a chink in the malaria parasite's armor, the question was how to exploit it," Wright said. "Using PfRH5 in a vaccine is one approach, but we were also interested to see if we could disrupt the interaction in the opposite direction rather than by conventionally targeting the parasite. This has significant advantages in preventing the ability of the parasite to develop resistance."
Singapore-MIT-Alliance for Research and Technology Post-doctoral Associate Sara Dummler was also an author of the study.
"While the cost of producing and administering these drugs is currently relatively high, our hope is that future technological advances will enable this antibody to become a feasible response to malaria on the ground," Dummler said. "Antimalarial resistance poses a huge threat to global health and the more options we have in our armoury, the better equipped we will be to fight malaria."
Further details are available in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.