Scientists’ sneak attack disables malaria parasite

February 9th, 2009 - 3:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 9 (IANS) Researchers’ sneak attack disabled the digestive apparatus of malaria parasite and caused it to die, a breakthrough that would open up new ways of targeting the microbe which kills a million every year worldwide.

Monash University researchers led by James Whisstock in collaboration with John Dalton of University of Technology, Sydney, conducted the study.

“About 40 percent of the world’s population are at risk of contracting malaria. It is only early days but this discovery could one day provide treatment for some of those 2.5 billion people across the globe,” Whisstock said.

“Drug-resistant malaria is an ever increasing problem, meaning that there is an urgent requirement to develop new therapeutic strategies.”

Sheena McGowan, from the Monash, who co-authored the study said their findings prove their concept. “We had an idea as to how malaria could be starved and we have shown this, chemically, can be done.”

“A single bite from an infected mosquito can transfer the malaria parasite into a human’s blood stream. The malaria parasite must then break down blood proteins in order to obtain nutrients.”

“Malaria carries out the first stages of digestion inside a specialised compartment called the digestive vacuole - this can be considered to be like a stomach. However, the enzyme we have studied (known as PfA-M1), which is essential for parasite viability, is located outside the digestive vacuole meaning that it is easier to target from a drug perspective,” she added.

Malaria is caused by a parasite called plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver and then infect red blood cells, said a Monash release.

Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache and vomiting, and usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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