New drug ‘paves way’ for malaria eradication

Scottish-led researchers discover drug which could treat the disease and prevent it spreading

Friday 30th August 2019

A new drug which may prevent the spread of malaria could offer fresh hope in the global fight against the disease.

An international team of scientists, led by the University of Glasgow, have discovered a drug which kills the parasite that causes malaria at all three stages in its life cycle.

The researchers say their findings show it could prevent the disease spreading, and also holds the potential to treat the disease in humans too.

Professor Andrew Tobin, professor of molecular pharmacology at the University of Glasgow, hopes the findings will “pave the way for the first step in the eradication of malaria”.

He said: “Our work has shown that by killing the parasite at the various stages of parasite development, we have not only discovered a potential cure for malaria, but also a way of stopping the spread of malaria from person to mosquito which can then infect other people.”

Malaria, which is spread by mosquitos, currently kills around half a million people globally every year – most of the victims are children.

It is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which grows in the liver and in red blood cells.

The new drug works by stopping the activity of a protein called PfCLK3, which stops the production of proteins essential to keep the parasite alive.

The research study, published in the journal Science, found it is effective at killing it at all three stages of its life cycle - when it is in the liver, in red blood cells and preventing sexual development.

Study co-author Professor Andy Waters, director of the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Parasitology at Glasgow University, said inhibiting PfCLK3 killed the parasite at “multiple stages”.

He added: “In this way we have found a way to stop the transmission of the parasite by killing the form of the parasite that infects mosquitos, thereby preventing the parasite from being transferred from one person to another.”