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Wednesday 20th June 2018

Anti-malaria drugs new target

17th December 2007

A UK research team has said that a protein may provide the "key" to tackling the parasites which spread malaria and which have become resistant to existing drug treatment.


The study, published in Cell, said the protein "triggers the release of the parasite from red blood cells enabling it to invade neighbouring cells". Ensuring that the protein has been blocked also halts the spread of the parasite.

This discovery may prompt new research into anti-malaria treatment. The disease is thought to cause around three million fatalities around the world every year.

The researchers, working at the National Institute for Medical Research, have studied the PfSUB1 enzyme for ten years. The focus on the protein, and its effects on the spread of malaria, has been a recent development.

Malaria is caused by the plasmodium falciparum parasite, which grows in red blood cells. Merozoites, the "daughter parasites", will then start infecting other cells.

The team found that merozoites are made up of "components" known as exonemes which contain the PfSUB1 enzyme. The enzyme obliterates cell structures in order to allow the parasite to leave and infect different cells around the body.

Through the investigation of many compounds, the team discovered a plant molecule that could stop the PfSUB1 enzyme and prevent the merozoites from travelling outside the original cell.

Dr Mike Blackman, an expert in parasitology, said the team's research showed there was "real potential" for making new treatments.

He stated that a few more years research was necessary in order to make a successful treatment.

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