A new discovery that could lead to new treatments for malaria has been made by an international team of researchers.
An international team has learned how the malaria parasites reproduce, which has opened the door for a way to prevent such reproduction from occurring.
The researchers who made the discovery were led in their quest by John Dalton, a biochemist in McGill's Institute of Parasitology.
Malaria parasites live inside our red blood cells and feed on proteins, breaking them down so that they can use the proceeds (amino acids) as building blocks for their own proteins.
When they have reached a sufficient size they divide and burst out of the red cell and enter another, repeating the process until severe disease or death occurs.
Dalton and his colleagues found that certain "digestive enzymes" in the parasites enable them to undertake this process.
Importantly, the researchers have also now determined the three-dimensional structures of two enzymes and demonstrated how drugs can be designed to disable the enzymes.
"By blocking the action of these critical parasite enzymes, we have shown that the parasites can no longer survive within the human red blood cell," Dalton said.
The discovery will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.