A new drug candidate prevents the growth of parasite that causes malaria, reports research. The compound created in the labs of Altman and co-senior author Choukri Ben Mamoun at the Yale School of Medicine penetrates red blood cells and targets molecular machinery that enables the parasite to grow within the cells, according to findings published the week of April 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Malaria sickens more than 200 million people and kills more than a million people annually. The disease is caused by fives species of parasites of the genus Plasmodium, which is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. "While we primarily looked at one species of parasite, it is clear the compound also knocks out drug-resistant strains of malaria as well," Altman said.
"This compound can wipe out strains that are currently resistant to drugs such as chloroquine and pyrimethamine."The work is an outgrowth of the discovery by Yale immunobiology professor Alfred L. M. Bothwell of a basic peptide that the Yale team showed can penetrate cell walls and membranes. Altman and colleagues also added a piece of RNA to this peptide which then attaches to messenger RNA produced by parasites within the blood cells.