Funded by the Medical Research Council and The Wellcome Trust scientists at the University of Leicester have a made a breakthrough in the fight against malaria…reports Asian Lite.
Professor Andrew Tobin, who led the team working with colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it paves the way for the development of a tablet to cure malaria. However, Prof Tobin, based at the Medical Research Council Toxicology unit at the university, warned it is likely to be another decade before this is widely available, says a Leicster Mercury report.
Researchers have identified a key protein – protein kinase (PfPKG) – which is essential to the survival of the parasite which causes malaria.
Prof Tobin told Leicester Mercury: “We had identified a group of proteins which could be potential targets for drugs and this latest research focused on a few which were going to make a good target to design a drug.
“Our latest research papers describes a drug which kills the parasite.
“We now need to persuade a big pharmaceutical company to develop this drug.”
Malaria is caused by a parasite, Plasmodium, that enters the body through the bite of an infected mosquito. Once in the body the parasites survive by entering red blood cells.
Figures from the World Health Organisation show that more than 200 million people world wide are infected each year and that malaria kills nearly 800,000 people annually. Most deaths are in Africa where a child dies every 45 seconds of malaria.
Prof Tobin added: “As well as being able to treat malaria we want to be able to stop transmission from person to person and we are hoping that this drug will actually stop the development of the parasite in humans.”
The next step is to present the research to large pharmaceutical companies and the Bill and Melinda Gates funded Medicines for Malaria Venture which supports drug development programmes in malaria.
Prof Tobin cautioned it is likely to be another 10 years before the drug is widely available.
Once a tablet form is developed a series of clinical trials then have to take place to test it effectiveness and that it is safe for children and pregnant women.