While the world battles against the new mosquito borne-disease Zika, the fight against the older mosquito borne-disease malaria
, especially drug-resistant strains continues.
The malarial parasite continues to plague several parts of the world. While the vivax strain often results in chronic cases, the falciparum strain can affect the brain and even result in death. Though medications are available, their use over the years has resulted in drug-resistant strains, making the drugs ineffective. Even newer drugs like artemisinin
have been unable to avoid the problem of drug resistance
‘New drug target developed using cutting edge technology could hold the key to tackling strain of drug-resistant malaria.’
Scientists have now come up with a possible solution that could be useful in developing new anti-malarial drugs
. The research was a collaborative effort of scientists from Stanford University, Medical Research Council in Cambridge, The University of California, San Francisco and the University of Melbourne. The findings of the research were published in the Nature
The scientists have suggested a new target of the malarial parasite where a drug can act - the proteasome.
The proteasome is an important part of every cell that is involved in disposing off waste protein produced by the cell. Inhibiting the proteasomes will result in cell death.
Scientists have found that by inhibiting the proteasome, every stage in the life-cycle of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite can be targeted.
Proteasome inhibitors have been explored earlier as a therapeutic option in malaria. However, they also inhibit proteasomes in human cells, which could therefore be toxic for use. This difficulty has been overcome by the researchers. They have found differences between the malarial and human proteasomes, and have come up with a new strategy to develop a proteasome inhibitor that acts only against the malarial parasite and not against the human proteasome.
Initial studies on blood cells infected with the malarial parasites indicate that this new approach will work for malaria that is sensitive as well as resistant to artemisinin. It may also be useful when used along with artemisinin in the treatment of resistant cases of malaria.
This research is still in its initial phases and it may take years before a new anti-malarial drug that is effective against artemisinin-resistant strains is available in the market. Till then, the patients as well as the treating doctors should be advised on steps to prevent resistance to the current drugs like taking the complete course of medications, and using artemisinin-based combinations instead of artemisinin alone.
Li H et al. Structure- and function-based design of Plasmodium-selective proteasome inhibitors. Nature 530, 233-236, 11 February 2016; doi:10.1038/nature16936