A team of scientists from Stanford University, the Universities of Melbourne, the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, and the University of California, San Francisco have made a significant breakthrough in finding first-defense treatments for the growing resistance of malaria parasites.
Approximately 450,000 children die from malaria each year. This number is expected to increase with malaria’s resistance to artemisinin, the most effective antimalarial drug.
The resistance is based in Southeast Asia, but experts are concerned it will soon spread to Africa. In the last five years, the species with artemisinin resistance has been located in six countries.
"Artemisinin causes damage to the proteins in the malaria parasite that kill the human cell, but the parasite has developed a way to deal with that damage,” University of Melbourne Professor Leann Tilley said. “So new drugs that work against resistant parasites are desperately needed.”
The study, available in Nature, suggests that the new technology can fight the resistant strain by targeting the waste disposal system, called proteasome, of the parasite.
"The parasite's proteasome is like a shredder that chews up damaged or used-up proteins,” Tilley said. “Malaria parasites generate a lot of damaged proteins as they switch from one life stage to another and are very reliant on their proteasome, making it an excellent drug target.”