A compound derived from the bark of a tree could help prevent malaria at the early stage of its infection, says a new study.
The new molecule tazopsine was isolated by scientists from bark collected in Madagascar's eastern rain forest, reported science portal SciDev Net.
Madagascar is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, off the southeastern coast of Africa. It is the fourth largest island in the world and is home to five percent of the world's plant and animal species.
Tazopsine comes from the stem bark of the plant Strychnopsis thouarsii. It is the sole ingredient in a traditional tea used as treatment for malaria infection.
Researcher Carraz M and colleagues found that N-cyclopentyl-tazopsine, a less-toxic compound derived from the Tazopsine molecule, was effective against early, liver-stage malaria parasites in animal tests, said an open-access article published in the journal Public Library of Science medicine (PLoS).
Although the compound is ineffective once infection has reached the red blood cells, scientists hope that variants of tazopsine-related molecules can be tested to find one of low toxicity suitable for clinical trials.
A resurgence of malaria since the 1980s, combined with a shortage of conventional drugs, has forced many Madagascans to rely on medicines from over 200 plants to fight the disease.
This has triggered scientific interest, as Madagascar's long isolation from neighbouring countries has resulted in a unique mix of plants and animals.
There is currently a shortage of treatments which target the malaria parasite after it migrates to the liver and before it reproduces into the bloodstream and infects red blood cells.