Malaria is currently a major concern across the continent, specifically the drug-resistant strain of malaria parasites.
“The reality is that there are resistant parasites to every known antimalarial drug,” said Manuel Llinás, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University and lead author of the paper. “We need new drugs targeting different aspects of parasite biology.”
Nearly half of the world’s population lives in areas at risk of transmitting malaria, a serious and sometimes fatal disease that produces symptoms such as fevers, chills, and flu-like illness. According to the World Health Organization, over 212 million cases of malaria were reported in 2015, with an estimated 429,000 deaths, the majority of which occur in young children in sub-Saharan Africa.
After a parasite-carrying mosquito bites a person, the parasite infects liver cells, where it grows and multiplies. The parasites then invade red blood cells, where they multiply further, releasing daughter parasites, or merozoites, that in turn must invade new red blood cells. Symptoms of malaria are expressed during this cyclical 48-hour red blood cell life-stage.
The main aim in malaria prevention is to keep the parasite from invading red blood cells, which is why red blood cell invasion has been seriously considered as preventative measure for a long time. Former efforts have failed because of surface proteins. Unless every single one can be interfered with, the virus can’t be blocked.
Instead of targeting surface proteins, this new drug will target a part of the virus called PfAP2-I. Preventing it from binding with the DNA and recruiting other important proteins. This would stop an infection before it even reaches the red blood phase of the infection.