A new study claims that a compound called luminol that detectives spray at crime scenes to find trace amounts of blood may be used one day to kill the malaria parasite. The compound glows blue when it encounters the hemoglobin in red blood cells.
The researchers found that the compound can be used to trigger an amino acid present in hemoglobin to kill the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in red blood cells.
"The light that luminol emits is enhanced by the antimalarial drug artemisinin," said senior author Daniel Goldberg, professor of medicine and molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, US. "We think these agents could be combined to form an innovative treatment for malaria," Goldberg said.
The new therapy may have an advantage over current malaria treatments, which have become less effective as the parasite mutates. The new approach targets proteins made by human red blood cells, which the parasite cannot mutate. The researchers worked with human red blood cells infected with the malaria parasite.
"All of these agents -- the amino acid, the luminol and artemisinin -- have been cleared for use in humans individually, so we are optimistic that they won't present any safety problems together," Goldberg said.
"This could be a promising new treatment for a devastating disease," he noted. The results appeared online in the journal eLife