Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have discovered numerous potential anti-malarial candidate drugs.
Researchers at the NIH Chemical Genomics Center, administered by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), used robotic, ultra-high-throughput screening technology to test more than 2,800 chemical compounds for activity against 61 genetically diverse strains of lab-grown malaria parasites.
They found 32 compounds that were highly effective at killing at least 45 of the 61 strains.
Ten of these compounds had not previously been reported to have anti-malarial action, and seven were more active at lower concentrations than artemisinin, a widely used malaria drug.
All the screened compounds are already registered as safe or approved for use in humans or animals, although not necessarily for use against malaria.
Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)'s Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research also determined that just three parasite genes-the same three genes that confer resistance to currently used malaria drugs-were associated with resistance to many of the screened compounds.
This suggests that the malaria parasite has a limited number of ways to develop resistance following exposure to drugs.
In theory, if drug combinations could be devised to target activity of all three resistant genes simultaneously, the parasite could be disarmed.